Compensation is up as TB
badger link trial spelt out
By Shelley Wright
GOVERNMENT has announced how its scientific trial to determine the link between tuberculosis in cattle and badgers will be implemented.
It has also said that compensation for cattle compulsorily slaughtered because of bovine TB will increase from the current level of 75% of average market price to 100% of an animals market value, with no payment ceiling. Junior farm minister Jeff Rooker admitted that balancing the need to tackle the disease in cattle with protecting wild badgers had been one of the most difficult issues agriculture ministers had faced.
Although sympathising with the views expressed by badger groups, Mr Rooker said he could not ignore the clear advice from the governments two main scientific advisers on this issue, Professors Krebs and Bourne, that the sum of evidence strongly support the view that, in Britain, badgers were a significant source of infection in cattle.
Bovine TB was a "potentially serious problem affecting cattle in this country" and the problem had to be tackled now, before it became unmanageable, he added. Protecting public health was the governments primary concern and more work would now be done to establish whether bovine TB had spread to humans.
The Krebs committee report, which recommended the badger control trials, was published in Dec. Government then asked a committee chaired by John Bourne, professor of animal health at Bristol University, to propose how the trials should be conducted.
Ultimately there will be 10 trial areas, or triplets, each split into three groups. Mr Rooker revealed that the first two triplets, where badger control will begin in the autumn, will be on the Devon/Cornwall border and on the border of Herefords, Worcs and Glos.
The three sectors of the triplet will each be 100 sq km. In one, pro-active culling will take place with all badgers trapped in cages and shot. The second area will involve reactive culling, with setts cleared on farms that have a TB breakdown. The final trial site in each triad will act as a control, with badger numbers and activity monitored. A minimum of 50 farms will be included in each of the three zones.
Mr Rooker said another four triplets would be added after May next year, with the final four beginning a year later. The so-called new outbreak areas in the Midlands could well be included, he added.
For animal welfare reasons, to ensure no badger cubs are left motherless, no culling will take place from Feb 1- April 30 each year.
Ultimately, a vaccine was the best solution, Mr Rooker said, but that was still 10-15 years away.
Participation in the trial areas will be voluntary. Those selected for the first two triplets will receive letters from MAFF in the coming days.
Producers who agree to take part will first have to complete a questionnaire on their management practice and their herds TB history. Government vets and wildlife volunteers will then complete a survey of the badger population on the farm.
Jeff Rooker…tackling TBwas a difficult issue for farm ministers.
Sites of the first two triplets where badger control will begin in autumn.