Badger cull 'not cost effective'
18th June 2007 - BBC News
The government is currently considering whether to introduce a cull. But,
culling badgers is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of controlling cattle
tuberculosis, scientists advising the government have concluded. Farmers say the
spread of cattle TB by badgers is destroying the industry and that culling would
control it. But independent government advisers said culling would have to be so
extensive it would be uneconomical. Conservationists suggest tighter
restrictions on cattle movements could help control the disease's spread.
It set up the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) to examine the
links between TB in cattle and the spread of badgers in the countryside. ISG
chairman Professor John Bourne told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "One has to
recognise that what we are dealing with is primarily a disease of cattle,
although badgers in hot spot areas do make a significant contribution. The
dilemma for farmers and ministers is that there was no sustainable way of
treating the badger issue", he said. If they do embark on a badger culling
policy, it is quite clear that will have no impact - direct impact or meaningful
impact - on controlling the disease in cattle, and it could make it worse."
Instead, he proposed a method of cattle control which would reduce the incidents
and prevent its geographical spread.
But National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall said he would seek urgent
meetings with ministers and officials to devise a culling strategy that would
make a worthwhile difference to the disease situation. "I simply do not accept
that the industry cannot devise a culling strategy that will reduce the
reservoir of TB in badgers," he said. He added that better testing and tighter
controls on cattle movements would be worthless unless something was done to
stop the "relentless cycle" of re-infection of cattle in the TB hot spot areas
by disease spreading from badgers.
Trevor Lawson, from the conservation group, the Badger Trust, said that the
problem lies with the way cattle are tested. "It's been missing large numbers of
infected cattle, and because we've had large herds and we move cattle around so
much in this country, that's spread it countrywide."
A consultation mounted recently by the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) suggested public opinion is firmly against a cull.
Past research has shown that culling is associated with increased TB in the
badgers; areas which had received four culls saw a doubling of the rate. It
appears that badgers move more freely and more widely in culled areas thereby
increasing contact with each other. The data comes from the Randomised Badger
Culling Trial, sometimes known as the Krebs trial after Sir John Krebs, the
government scientist who instigated it.
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