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Benefits Of Badger Cull Not Long Lasting

10 February 2010

UK - Badger culling is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of helping control cattle bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Britain, according to new research.

The benefits of repeated widespread badger culling, in terms of reducing the incidence of cattle bTB disappear within four years after culling has ended, say the authors of the study, from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London.

Farmers have urged the government to permit a large-scale cull to deal with the effects of bTB, however in England this option has so far been ruled out. Earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly gave the go-ahead for a targeted cull.

The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), a large scale field trial, was undertaken in 1998 by Defra to assess the effectiveness of badger culling.

Professor Christl Donnelly from Imperial College who analysed data from the trial said: "Although badger culling reduced cattle bTB during the trial and immediately thereafter, our new study shows that the beneficial effects are not sustained, disappearing four years post-cull.

"Our new research also suggests that the savings that farmers and the government would make by reducing bTB infections in cattle are two or three times less than the cost of repeated badger culls as undertaken in the trial, so this is not a cost-effective contribution to preventing bTB infections in cattle."

Previous analyses have shown that during the cull, bTB incidence in cattle within the cull zones decreased, whereas disease incidence in cattle outside cull zones increased, offsetting the benefit.

The researchers also analysed the financial costs and benefits of badger culling.

If you are going to undertake culling, it should be widespread, co-ordinated and repeated," Professor Donnelly said, adding that the Welsh assembly should "seriously consider" the prospect of a badger vaccine, which is being deployed in half a dozen TB hotspots in England this year.

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