Save Me Trust accused of making misleading TB claims

An animal welfare charity has been accused of publishing misleading information about bovine TB.

The Save Me Trust, a conservation charity established by Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May, is an outspoken critic of the government’s badger culling policy.

In response to Defra releasing the results of the 2022 badger cull in England, the charity published a tweet on 12 April with the hashtag #WakeupDefra which said: “210,000 [badgers] culled and bTB still rising. Test is not fit for purpose, it leaves bovine TB in the herd. The cull is financially unviable, ineffective and inhumane.”

See also: 5 ways to improve TB control in the UK

Farmers and industry leaders have taken issue with the charity’s claim that bovine TB is “still rising”.

According to official figures published by the Animal and Plant Health Agency last October, the number of TB-restricted herds has plummeted from 327 in 2013 to 87 in 2019 in cull zone areas one to 10.

And the UK chief veterinary officer has confirmed that TB incidence in cattle in cull areas is down 45% after three years of culling and down 50% after four years of culling. 

‘Completely incorrect’

A Defra spokesperson said: “It is completely incorrect to say that TB infections are rising – on the contrary, our bovine TB eradication strategy has led to a significant reduction in this insidious disease, with TB incidence in cattle down 45% in areas where culls have taken place. 

“As a result of the progress made, we are now able to move on to the next phase of the long-term eradication strategy, including wider badger vaccination, alongside improved cattle testing, and work towards deployment of a cattle vaccine.

“We have always been clear we do not want to continue the badger cull longer than necessary.”

However, a targeted approach to future badger disease control will include a provision for culling only in the worst-affected areas and where the epidemiological evidence points to an ongoing role of badgers in the disease.   

Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges faced by the livestock sector in England, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers more than £100m every year.