We are extremely concerned at the news this week that the badger cull could be coming to North and South Devon and Cornwall.
Scientific research has shown that culling badgers is not the answer to the problem of TB in cattle and whilst we sympathise with farmers, we know that not only is it going to cost thousands of healthy badgers their lives; it will do nothing to help their desperate situation. There is evidence to suggest that despite three years of culling in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset, the number of cattle slaughtered due to TB has in fact gone up in all three areas.
So far £25 million pounds-worth of tax payer’s money has been spent on killing just under 4,000 badgers at a cost of over £6,000 per badger. No badgers have been tested for TB and there is no evidence to show how badgers could actually pass TB on to cattle.
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, the largest trial of its kind ever carried out, was designed to find out if culling badgers could contribute to the control of TB in cattle and was peer reviewed by the best animal disease experts in the country. They concluded that culling badgers could make no meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle.
Statistics from the trial also showed that 94 per cent of TB infection in cattle is caused by cattle to cattle transmission and is largely due to the ineffectiveness of the current skin test. The test is only between 50 per cent to 80 per cent accurate, leaving up to one-in-two infected animals in the herd to continue to spread the disease.
The way forward has to be the development of a better test for TB, more frequent TB testing and more rigorous on farm bio-security. Research in to a cattle vaccine should also be put back on the government’s agenda. One popular myth is that cattle catch TB from eating infected pasture, contaminated with badger urine and faeces but recent scientific research has shown that cattle actively avoid areas that have been contaminated. This seriously calls into question the part badgers play in the spread of this disease.
The government has repeatedly stated that the badger culls are working and yet has failed to produce any evidence to back up their claims. In stark contrast, there is overwhelming evidence to show that culling badgers will not solve the problem of TB in cattle and will not help our struggling farmers.
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