TB Control Should be Focused on Cattle

UK - Badger Trust Cymru and the Badger Trust have given a broad welcome to a new report on bovine TB from the Rural Development Sub- Committee at the Welsh Assembly. But they warn that a proposal for a badger culling trial in Wales has no scientific validity and will serve no useful purpose.
calendar icon 24 January 2008
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According to the Badger Trust, the report largely focuses on the urgent need for better TB control in cattle. It calls for annual TB testing of cattle throughout Wales and emphasises that better cattle monitoring in Northern Ireland has led to rapid and significant improvements.

The Committee concludes that there is "insufficient evidence to make conclusive recommendations" on the wisdom of killing badgers to control bovine TB.

Instead, it calls for the establishment of an Intensive Treatment Area (ITA) "with hard boundaries" where badgers could be killed "to provide further evidence on the effects on the spread of TB of culling wildlife".

Mike Sharratt, for Badger Trust Cymru, commented:

"We warmly welcome the Sub-Committee's recognition that bovine TB is primarily spread by cattle and exacerbated by an inadequate TB testing regime. The science clearly shows that a much stronger focus on cattle testing will rapidly reverse bovine TB and bring it under control, for the benefit of Welsh farmers and tax payers alike. In Northern Ireland, TB was reduced by 40 per cent in one year by improving the testing regime and the Committee members have seen that system in action.

"However, the proposal for a badger-culling trial in Wales serves no useful purpose. Killing badgers in one area, that is not randomly selected and has no scientific control with which to compare the results, will have no scientific validity. It will not be statistically significant. It would make far more sense to spend that money on grants to help farmers keep badgers out of farm buildings. The science clearly shows that badgers' small role in this disease occurs when they are in farm buildings looking for food. A cheap electric fence is all that's needed to prevent direct contact between cattle and badgers, yet Government research has found that 94 per cent of farm buildings are currently accessible to badgers.

"Killing badgers will alienate the public, 96 per cent of whom opposed badger culling in a Government consultation. Better cattle testing and excluding badgers from farm buildings is a win-win solution and we hope that the Assembly Government has the wisdom to implement it."

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