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Call to tackle bovine TB spread

4 July 2005 - BBC News

The government must act now to authorise a cull of badgers to stop the spread of tuberculosis in cattle, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has said.

The NFU says the problem is so bad the government cannot afford to wait for the result of trials into the role of badgers in the spread of bovine TB.

Last month, a three-year trial testing the effectiveness of TB vaccines for badgers was announced.

Badger groups claim bovine TB is spread by cattle movements and not badgers.

BBC correspondent Mark Holdstock said it cost the UK 60m to test cattle and compensate farmers last year.

NFU president Tim Bennett told the BBC that results from abroad had already proved badgers were a major factor in the spread of the disease.

The government must announce a cull sooner rather than later, he said.

But badger groups have seized on a study, published in Nature, concluding that the movement of cattle around Britain is the most important known factor in the spread of bovine TB.

Last month, Farming Minister Ben Bradshaw announced the three-year vaccine field study - the first of its kind.

The trial, estimated to cost 1.1m a year, will take place next year in an area of high bovine TB prevalence in south-west England and will assess the protective effect of the vaccine.

"We will be injecting badgers with the vaccine during the study," Mr Bradshaw said.

"There are cases where this method of administration may be useful as an alternative to culling."

A study, also released in June, found that bovine TB was hitting many farmers harder than they were by the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

The number of cases is rising by 18% a year, with more than 22,000 infected cattle culled last year, researchers at Exeter University said.

For more information, please click the following link:

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4647463.stm

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