TB review claims badger cull may worsen matters

A cull of badgers would do little to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis throughout Great Britain, and may even make matters worse, a review of all the international evidence on the transmission of TB between cattle and wildlife has concluded.

The literature review, carried out by Reading University, reviewed evidence from New Zealand, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The review concludes that there is strong evidence that badgers can provide a reservoir for infection, but replicating culling strategies employed in other countries is unlikely to improve the situation in this country.

“Since the Krebs Report (1997), studies of badger culling exercises in Britain have so far failed to provide any clear indication that culling badgers, either reactively or proactively, has a useful effect on the incidence of herd breakdowns,” concludes the review.

Instead it supports measures to reduce the cattle-to-cattle spread.

“Because a culling policy, as it can be implemented in Britain, has not yet been demonstrated to be effective, it is important that research into other strategies, such as separation of badgers from cattle through biosecurity measures, and vaccination of the badger population should be continued,” it adds.

NFU animal health and welfare committee vice-chairman Jan Rowe said: “It is a long, long time since we had an effective culling policy in this country.

Once you allow politicians to become involved in formulating culling proposals they become so ineffective that they prove or disprove nothing.

“We don’t need to cull vast numbers of badgers, but we do need to enforce true badger exclusion zones around infected farms to allow us to clear the disease from these areas.”