10 June 1999
Badger culling trial to continue
By Jonathan Riley
GOVERNMENT officials have pledged to continue with their badger culling trial despite compelling evidence suggesting the animals pass tuberculosis to cattle.
The Krebs trial, which will take between five and seven years to complete, is designed to establish once and for all whether badgers pass TB to cattle.
But the results of an experiment in Ireland have already established a likely link between bovine TB in badgers and cattle.
The Offaly badger removal project which ran from 1988-96 showed a 91% reduction in TB reactor cattle after 50% of badgers within a trial area were culled.
Despite a 20% increase in bovine TB across Ireland during the same period, however, the Offaly experiment was branded unscientific and the results were overlooked.
Now, though, an independent review of the Offaly report by a panel of Irish veterinary experts has been published in the Irish Veterinary Journal.
The vets vindicate the Offaly research and have back the projects findings.
The review author and Irish government vet John Eves said that 30% of badgers captured in the trial were infected.
After their removal, the number of infected cattle fell from 326 to 30 in six years, against a backdrop of normal farming practice, said Mr Eves.
It was concluded that TB infected badgers constituted a particular risk to the native cattle population of Ireland.
But a spokesman for the National Federation of Badger Groups said that the Offaly research was flawed.
And a MAFF spokesman said that it would stick to the Krebs trial protocol even though the trial will not yield results for seven years.
It is the best way to help the badger, the nature lover and the farmer, said the spokesman
The Irish findings do not change that.
Barry Jones, chairman of the National Beef Associations bovine TB committee, said:
We just do not understand how MAFF can insist that the Krebs trial has to continue unchanged while TB outbreaks mushroom.
Brian Jennings, chairman of National Farmers Unions animal health committee, said the government should complete the Krebs trial as soon as possible.
It cannot continue to go against scientific results, he said.
The National Farmers Union will publish a report showing startling projections for TB in the UK and the resulting financial impact next week, added Mr Jennings.