Badger-TB link uncertainty set to be cleared

12 February 1999

Badger-TB link uncertainty set to be cleared

By Isabel Davies

SCIENTISTS will be able to prove whether or not there is a link between badgers and bovine TB within the next two to three years.

Molecular biology techniques currently being developed should give definitive answers, John Krebs, the man behind the governments current TB control trials, told MPs on Monday.

Giving evidence to the cross-party agriculture select committees investigation into bovine TB, Prof Krebs said the results would end 20 years of uncertainty about any link.

But in the meantime, he insisted the trial, which involves badger culling in targeted areas, must continue. Despite widespread criticism from both conservationists and farmers, Prof Krebs said he still believed there was no better way forward.

"Although anything that could be done to speed up the trial would be helpful," he admitted.

He also expressed concern that the government seemed to be having second thoughts and was apparently considering a limited badger cull in hot-spot areas outside the trial zones.

"There would be internal inconsistencies in having a trial and also allowing an additional cull," he argued. Conducting a trial showed acceptance that there was uncertainty over whether there was a link between badgers and TB in cattle. Allowing culling outside the trial areas was almost an acceptance that the link had been proven.

"Farmers have to look at the longer term as well as the short; no pain, no gain," he said. The same argument could be put to farmers considering taking the law into their own hands and culling badgers illegally, he insisted.

Possible sources

The committee questioned Prof Krebs about the scope of his report and whether or not the terms of reference had been too prescriptive. But he defended the work that had been carried out and claimed that possible sources of TB other than badgers had been considered.

The MPs, however, said that animal husbandry techniques to slow the spread of disease needed more consideration. &#42

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