‘Moor’ badgering away …. A Guest Blog Post

 

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Monica Ward, Chairperson of the South Yorkshire Badger Group provides an analysis of the recent BBC Countryfile programme of Sunday 24 August 2014 in which featured a piece on the planned cull of badgers and the issue of gassing as an alternative method.  This Guest Blog Post is provided by Monica, a tenacious defender of the iconic brock, and is drawn from many years of campaigning for their protection as well as an effective solution to the controversial topic of badger culls.

 

Although the programme on bovine TB was more balanced than in some previous programmes, there was one important statement made that was misleading.

It is true that the incidence of TB in cattle was brought down to below 1,000 cases from 1951 to 1960 which was due to the introduction by the Government of the Area Eradication Plan, where cattle were tested annually and slaughtered if found to have bTB.

In the programme it was stated that badgers were gassed in their setts during that time. This is not true. There was no mention of badgers having bTB until 1971, so the incidence of TB in cattle during that time was brought down by cattle based measures alone.

Because the incidence of TB in cattle did not significantly drop any further, it was suggested that the reason was due to the presence of badgers re-infecting the herd and that is why the gassing badgers in their setts began. The worst area for bTB in cattle was the South West so that is where most of the gassing of badgers was carried out.

Cattle continued to be tested annually until 1990 but the level of bTB remained more or less level. Gassing badgers certainly made little or no difference.

More recently it is understood that bTB can remain in the herd after it has passed the TB tests, partly because it has not been picked up by the TB tests which are not 100% reliable. Also, at the very early stages of the disease it is not always diagnosed, and so the animal remains in the herd and the disease develops until it reaches the infectious stage, thus infecting the herd.

Historically, the major mistake made was for annual testing of all cattle to be discontinued from 1990. Incidents of bTB have risen because of this and because of interruptions to testing due to such factors as vets being too busy to test cattle during the BSE crisis and Foot and Mouth epidemic.

It is a sad reflection on the present situation that some farmers are reluctant or cannot afford to spend money on annual testing.  Surely, Government money would be better spent on testing cattle annually rather than spending huge sums on culling badgers.

 

Badger & mayweed

 

 

Postscript

A particularly useful paper which Monica has drawn our attention to ism

THE ERADICATION OF BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS IN GREAT BRITAIN by W D Macrae, MRCVS, DVSM

One has to wonder why when the Welsh have managed around a 50% reduction in bTB incidences why Defra will not adopt and implement a similar programme?  Why is it that  badgers still appear to be the scapegoat for poor biosecurity?  When the countryside was suffering from Foot and Mouth and the BSE crisis, livestock movement was restricted and what was the level of bTB at these times?

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