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Friday, August 06, 2010

Confusion as bovine TB rates drop

The Badger Trust have issued a press release today in which they point out that only half as many cattle were slaughtered in Dyfed because of bovine TB in the first four months of this year than in the same period last year with no badgers killed. Defra report that the number is 1,752, down from 3,313, a drop of 47%.

This is the county of course where up to 1,500 badgers were under threat of extermination until the Appeal Court quashed the plan in June. The number of herds infected in Dyfed also fell by a healthy 14 percent from 87 to 75 between the same periods.

The Badger Trust say that although these Defra figures are provisional and subject to revision the reductions were far from marginal. They were in line with longer-term statistics showing a consistent downward trend of about seven percent over the last two and a half years both in Wales and Great Britain as a whole.

The stringent controls in Wales on the movement and sale of live cattle are designed to achieve results such as those above. The Trust says they should also be implemented across England and without the wasteful distraction of killing badgers. Elsewhere, Scotland has now been given TB-free status by the EU, and Northern Ireland has announced it has no plans to kill badgers.

Despite bovine tuberculosis figures continuing to fall without any badgers being killed, not just in Wales but in Great Britain overall, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) makes new claims that culling could be effective. The Badger Trust says the FUW should be wholeheartedly encouraging its members to back cattle-based measures in the light of the improving figures.

In Great Britain as a whole the fall in confirmed new herd incidents (CNIs) was six percent (2,633 to 2,468) in the two years from January 2008. In Wales, the drop was five percent (from 541 to 513) over the same period. In the first four months of this year cases in Great Britain fell by another eight percent (from 1047 to 964).
The FUW and farmers in general just do not like the idea of Badgers burrowing on their land. Killing badgers of course is outlawed by the 1992 act so how else besides blaming badgers for tB are they going to get rid of them? They will have to think up another way...
Although it is difficult to test badgers directly, I understand that it is possible to check on the presence of TB in a badger population by sampling their latrines. Has this been done systematically in Dyfed? It would be interesting to know if TB has declined in badgers also.
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