EDITOR - In response to the letter supporting a badger cull to prevent the spread of bovine TB, it is important to support the arguments for a cull with scientific evidence that this will be effective. This is quite clearly not the case.
There was a large increase in bovine TB following the resumption of bovine TB testing after the foot and mouth disease outbreak.
Evidence suggests this increase in bovine TB is linked to:
l the foot and mouth disease outbreak confined large numbers of cattle together for many months allowing undetected infection to spread. Bovine TB testing was suspended during the foot and mouth outbreak.
l the bovine TB test is not accurate enough, infected herds may go unnoticed and the disease spreads.
l restocking after the foot and mouth disease outbreak inadvertently transported bovine TB to previously unaffected areas.
The recent research programme by the Independent Research Group into bovine TB came to the clear conclusion against the culling of badgers to eradicate bovine TB.
The 289 page report published in 2007 after 10 years of research and involving the culling of over 11,000 badgers reached two main conclusions:
l that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to bovine TB control.
l weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of the disease.
DEFRA has produced guidance on minimising the risk of bovine TB.
Perhaps the answer lies not with a cull of the badger population but with improved animal husbandry and improved testing.
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