TB Cull: Through the Badgers Eye

WALES, UK - 'A senseless quid pro quo for farmers, weakly disguised as science', is how the Badger Trust has branded the National Assembly for Wales recent proposal to control Bovine Tuberculosis. Developments in the scheme have led to the suggestion of a mass badger cull, which the Badger Trust claim is completely unnecessary.
calendar icon 4 April 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

However, there is a very serious problem with Bovine Tuberculosis in Wales and farmers are calling for urgent confrontation. According to the Badger Trust Northern Ireland had a similar rate of bovine TB to Wales just four years ago, but has virtually halved that without killing a single badger.

In contrast, over the same period, the Republic of Ireland has exterminated thousands of badgers and failed to dent in its massive bovine TB problem, even though badgers are now virtually extinct in livestock areas. Elin Jones, the Minister for Rural Affairs, must not make the same mistake by killing badgers in Wales.

Bovine TB: The Welsh Situation

According to the Badger Trust, Wales currently has the worst rate of TB infection in cattle in the UK. The rate is best measured by the number of cattle, per thousand tested, that are found with TB. This is a better measure of the situation than the number of infected cattle or herds, which is influenced by herd density rather than disease frequency.

Farming unions blame badgers for the bovine TB problem in Welsh cattle. But if badgers were the true cause, the situation would be just as bad in Northern Ireland where no badger culling is taking place.

Yet Badger Trust Cymru’s data shows that Northern Ireland has dramatically improved its TB situation in just four years without killing a single badger. In fact, the situation in Northern Ireland is now better than in both Wales and England, whereas it was once the worst in Europe.

TB positive cattle per 1,000 cattle tested, 2002-2007

The Proposed Solution

Elin Jones AM, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Minister for Rural Affairs, is currently considering how best to address Wales’ growing bovine TB problem. If she accepts the Welsh Assembly’s call for badger culling, the outlook for badgers is not at all promising.

According to Badger Trust, on 22 January 2008, the National Assembly for Wales’ Rural Development Sub-Committee published its report on bovine TB. The Sub-Committee had been presented with evidence from ten years’ worth of badger culling research in England. Its authors, the Independent Scientific Group (ISG), concluded that culling could make no meaningful contribution to bovine TB control.

Their research had been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and the authors had analysed, in detail, every possible culling option before reaching their conclusion. None of the pro-cull lobbyists who gave evidence to the Sub-Committee provided robust statistical, economic or scientific analysis to contradict the ISG: they simply disagreed with it.

Yet the Sub-Committee failed to rule out badger culling. Unable to contest the ISG’s advice with any evidence, the Assembly Members instead said there was not enough evidence to say whether badger culling was a good idea or not. This left badgers exposed as scapegoats for a problem that is entirely the consequence of current farming practices.

The Sub-Committee recommended a policy of badger culling ‘to provide further evidence on the effects on the spread of TB of culling wildlife in an area with hard boundaries’.

Further Reading

       - You can view the full report by clicking here.
       - Find out more information on Bovine Tuberculosis by clicking here.

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