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Thursday, March 07, 2019

Scientists warn badger cull may actually make TB spread worse

The Independent finally catches up with the rest of us reporting that a study has found culling badgers may help to spread TB further because it disrupts local populations and drives them into previously uninfected areas.

The study they are referring to focused on a cull conducted between 1998 and 2005 to protect British cattle from TB. It was one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, resulting in the death of 11,000 badgers.

While some locations saw infections drop, the trial led to the disease spreading further into previously uninfected cattle and badger populations. It is a study that has been much ignored by a government more concerned with appeasing farmers than actually taking effective action to eradicate bovine TB.

I actually reported on this study in October 2009 The Independent Scientific Group's research was published in international, peer-reviewed journals. The authors analysed in detail, every possible culling option before reaching their conclusion. The research was published here.

The paper adds that despite the identified shortcomings, the government has proceeded with a new round of culling to bring the disease under control, leading to a further 30,000 badgers being killed.

The solution advocated by the experts may be a lot more difficult than randomly shooting badgers, but it has the merits of at least being effective. They want to see the introduction of non-lethal methods like badger vaccinations and improved biosecurity measures by farmers:

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said the researchers were right to note the so-clled “perturbation effect” by which animal movement helps spread disease.

“Despite the huge cost and cruelty involved, no reliable scientific evidence has been published to prove that badger culling is lowering bovine TB in or around the 31 cull zones across England,” he said.

Surely we are overdue for a fresh approach by Ministers.
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