NBA TB Committee Urges Agreement Over Control

UK - The National Beef Association (NBA) bovine tuberculosis (TB) Committee urges both sides of the debate to agree all control measures will be needed to fight the crippling effects of TB.
calendar icon 26 October 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

The National Beef Association (NBA) says the debate over licencing badger control areas must not become an argument between simply culling or not culling, but rather an open conversation about badger control measures being one of many essential tools needed to tackle TB in both wildlife and cattle.

A debate in Parliament last week saw several inaccuracies spoken about proposed badger control in England, and also arguments that vaccination should be pursued instead, rather than the sensible approach of combining all methods, including both culling and vaccination, as well as strict cattle biosecurity and movement controls.

Bill Harper, NBA TB Committee Chairman, says: “As an industry we have always accepted that TB cannot be eradicated by one method alone. We need access to all the tools in the box, with further tools needing to be developed as we go along. A holistic approach to the problem is essential.”

The NBA commends the way Jim Paice, Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, responded to the inaccuracies in last week’s debate and the steps he took urging participants ‘not to get into the emotions’ of a badger cull but to acknowledge the importance of the subject.

In response to criticisms led by Mary Glindon, Labour MP for North Tyneside, who secured the debate in Parliament, Mr Paice explained any cull would be humane and be coupled with both vaccination on the boundaries of the area and consistently high cattle controls. He also stressed a cull would result in a 34 per cent reduction in disease, not the 16 per cent cited by critics.

Mr Harper says: “Inaccuracies peddled by senior politicians are not helpful to anyone, including the farmers trying to understand how culling would potentially work in their area. We must deal in fact and not fiction.”

Answering some of the inaccurate claims, Mr Harper says badger vaccination alone is not the better course of action because it would be expensive, impractical and unsustainable, even if an oral vaccine became available. This was due to the difficulties of trapping badgers, especially to build up immunity with booster jabs, and the dangers of vaccinating badgers already infected with TB.

He refutes suggestions that shooting is not humane for badgers or safe for humans, pointing to Germany where 50,000 badgers are shot each year as part of a culling programme, proving it can be done both humanely and without any human incidences.

Other criticisms levelled by Ms Glindon and her supporters included: that a cull period longer than two weeks would encourage perturbation; no farmer-led cull could replicate what had been achieved in trials; farmers would not be systematic or sustained in their actions, potentially abandoning a cull half way through; badgers could become extinct in some areas; and illegal badger persecution would be carried out under the pretext of culling.

Mr Harper says these arguments have no foundations, as the proposed cull could be even more effective than trials already carried out and cause less perturbation. This is because licenced areas would be large, have hard physical boundaries and see culling happen simultaneously throughout, whereas the Kreb’s trial was done in small areas without any hard boundaries and with trapping done on a rotational farm basis rather than all at the same time.

Culling in the licenced areas would be managed by contractors working under strict protocols and structures, meaning farmers would sign up for a fixed period of time and not be responsible for shooting badgers themselves. Only approved marksmen would do any shooting, and only during the approved open season, making it clear that anyone operating outside that structure would be open to prosecution.

Countering the simplistic argument that the previous Labour Government’s policy of badger vaccination was better than the current Government’s badger control policy, Mr Harper says: “The TB Eradication Group set up under the Labour government was done so to investigate not just vaccination but an eradication programme using all the tools needed to combat this disease. We must continue down that line and not just look at one solution.”

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