Posted by: braddenvillage | February 20, 2010

The Badger – Bovine TB Debate

Badgers and Bovine TB

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee report on badgers and cattle TB The Wildlife Trusts’ response 27 February 2008

Commenting on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee report on badgers and cattle TB (bTB), Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This report rightly highlights the need for tighter controls on cattle testing and biosecurity as the way to combat this disease. Far from giving a green light to badger culling, the Committee reinforces the view that badger culling could, in theory, be effective if certain conditions were met. However, we know these conditions are impossible to meet in practice.”

The Wildlife Trusts accept bTB in cattle is a significant problem for farming in the UK and that urgent action is required to combat the disease. The Trusts particularly recognise the important role the livestock industry can play in the environmentally-sensitive management of the countryside and the serious disruption and anxiety caused to farmers experiencing a herd breakdown.

The Wildlife Trusts are pleased the EFRA committee agrees the following measures must be rigorously enforced to control bTB:

  • more frequent cattle testing, with more frequent and targeted combined use of the tuberculin skin test and the gamma interferon test
  • the evaluation of post-movement cattle testing
  • greater communication with farmers on the benefits of bio-security measures
  • the deployment of badger and cattle vaccines, when they become available
  • continued work on the epidemiology of the disease.

However, The Wildlife Trusts believe that the following conditions the report suggests for badger-culling to be effective are impractical:

  • culling would need to be: over large areas (at least 265sq km, nearly the size of the Isle of Wight) – our land ownership is so fragmented that this would be impossible
  • for sustained periods of time (at least four years) – it would be impossible to prevent badgers moving into culled areas for this period of time
  • be co-ordinated – co-ordinating culling amongst so many landowners, particularly when some would not support a cull, would be impractical
  • be carried out competently and efficiently – having so many different landowners and managers carrying our culling means it would be impossible to ensure minimum standards of competence or efficiency
  • be undertaken where there are natural boundaries to dispersal – badgers are known to cross man-made natural boundaries such as major roads and waterways.

The Independent Scientific Group, set up by Government to look at this issue, concluded that, because they could see no situation where the conditions could be met, culling provides ‘no meaningful contribution’ and is ‘not cost effective’ as a control measure for combating bovine tuberculosis.

Stephanie Hilborne continued: “Now is the time to throw all our weight behind cattle control measures to deal with this disease and not be side-tracked by further discussions of badger culling.”

Can we combat this disease by cattle control measures alone?

Bovine TB levels in Northern Ireland have fallen by almost 50% since 2002 from a herd incidence of 9.93% to 5.38% in 2007. Statistics suggest that the disease is continuing on a downward trend. This has been achieved through strict enforcement of cattle based control measures and no culling of badgers.

Download report: Badgers and cattle TB: the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB Fourth Report of Session 2007–08

Policy Statement: Biodiversity 20060202 Badgers and Bovine TB

Article from the Cumbria Wildlife Trust Website


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