TB Reservoirs: Badger or Cattle Populations?

UK - A recent trial claims to have shown that badgers are not the TB reservoirs they were once thought to be. Instead, researchers are pointing the finger of blame towards cattle populations for its current spread.
calendar icon 20 November 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

According to Trevor Lawson of the Badger Trust, of the 10,000 badgers killed in TB hotspots during the recent badger culling trial, less than two per cent were significantly lesioned with bovine TB.

"But the trial discovered something more significant", says Trevor Lawson from the Badger Trust. Speaking for the Telegraph, he says that when TB testing was suspended during foot and mouth disease, the disease spread within and between herds. Then, it increased in badgers. When TB testing in cattle was resumed, TB declined in badgers a few months later. The implication is clear: "cattle, not badgers, are the reservoir of bovine TB."

The leading scientists who studied the disease concluded that badger culling could make "no meaningful contribution" to bovine TB control. Their work was published in the world's leading scientific journals, reports the Telegraph.

The news agency went on to say that this was "rather embarrassing" for Britain's cattle vets. "For 30 years, they had staked their professional reputations on blaming badgers."

A spokesperson for the UK National Farmers' Union says that a badger cull is still on the agenda. The group has recently said that a new Bovine TB Eradication Group should be formed to fight the problem.

"The membership of the group will include representatives from Defra's Food and Farming Group, Animal Health, the farming industry and the veterinary profession, and it will be convened and facilitated by Defra", said a press release.

"The group will look at the options available to address infection in cattle and to reduce the risk of transmission between cattle and between cattle and wildlife, and consider costs and benefits in making recommendations for action. It will consider options for using vaccination in cattle and badgers."

Mr Lawson says that Ireland's official data reveal that it has the worst bovine TB problem in Europe. "The number of infected herds in Ireland in 2007 was the same as in 2002, despite five years of cruel and particularly intensive badger snaring", he wrote

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