TB spread blamed on badgers

Bovine tuberculosis is continuing to infect other animal species, with the spread being blamed on diseased badgers.

A herd of free-range pigs that came into contact with badgers in woodland has been confirmed as having the disease. The farm in the West Country has been placed under movement restriction since the herd tested positive.

“The pigs were born and reared in the wood and have had no contact with any cattle, let alone infected cattle,” said their owner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals by pro-badger groups.

The local Animal Health division confirmed it was a strain of bovine TB that was common in the area. The lesions were in the pig’s head.

“I cannot now sell or move my free-range pigs. My livelihood has been taken away,” the farmer said.

“I was told by government officials that I could wipe out the herd and start again. But where’s the point. How can the government vets expect the pigs to get clear of the disease when they are in a wood full of diseased wildlife?” he said.

He added that ministry officials had inspected the badgers in the wood, which were “very sick”.

“They took a dead badger with them. But I have heard nothing since. It is a month since the visit.

“I don’t think the government realises that every month that goes by allows the disease to tighten its grip on the countryside. It is spreading fast.”

Vets told Farmers Weekly that the most likely cause of infection on the farm was through contact with diseased wildlife.

Andrew Biggs of the TB eradication group said the site of the TB lesions in the pig’s head suggested that it had consumed infected material – possibly the dead or dying badger. It also raised concerns about the increasing level of TB in the environment, said Mr Biggs.

Animal Health did not respond to requests for a comment, but a DEFRA spokeswoman said: “TB is not normally considered to be particularly contagious among pigs or to spread easily from pigs to other animals.”

She added that in most cases, the disease was self-limiting and no extensive TB control measures were required.