How have Cheshire badgers caught TB, was it from cattle?

Ministers and the University of Liverpool must explain how a comparatively high level of TB infection in 41 badgers killed on the roads in Cheshire arose. In the 1980s a Government funded study undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) found NO infection in more than 100 badgers in Cheshire collected and tested for TB.

Jane Cullen, Chair of the Wirral & Cheshire badger group said: “If we found zero infection of badgers in the 1980s and we now find an infection rate of 25% this points to only one logical conclusion, cattle with TB are passing the disease to badgers. The NFU’s TB Eradication group had these results about a month ago when they circulated them to people attending their briefings but have only just publicised their findings to others. This suggests it was done to coincide with Natural England’s announcement of the resumption of culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire”.

The current research, by Prof. Malcolm Bennett, professor of epidemiology at the university’s Institute of Infection and Global Health has no government funding and sought to assess the prevalence of bovine TB in Cheshire, a county considered to be on the edge area of the disease and where no badger culling has yet been undertaken.

Cheshire dairy farmer Richard Fair, who is also chairman of the Cheshire Bovine TB Eradication Group, submitted two of the roadkill badgers for the survey. He told the Farmers’ Weekly Interactive: “If TB is already in the wildlife here, are we wasting valuable resources vaccinating badgers in Cheshire? I don’t think that vaccinating badgers where we know there is an infection in the wildlife is a sensible use of the limited resources we have.”

But Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said: “Of course it is useful to vaccinate badgers in an area where the disease has clearly been leaking out of cattle herds into the wildlife. Badgers generally stay put on their own territories and do not move any distance. Vaccination can prevent healthy badgers getting the disease and reduce the likelihood of its being transmitted by the small number who may be carrying it. This is something which the Government also clearly recognises, with the launch of its new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme this week.

“The results of this badger road kill testing survey is an official demonstration – intended or not – that Cheshire’s cattle have been infecting Cheshire’s badgers due to lax cattle control measures. This research shows that killing badgers would be futile until farms stop leaking bovine TB.”

See also:

Bovine TB, badgers and cattle: Politics and social impact“Thinking Naturally” curated by Gordon McGlone.

Bovine TB: The scientific evidence.  A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle.  An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis

Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.  Presented to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  The Rt Hon David Miliband MP, June 2007

So where is the recent evidence based science deliverd by Government agencies?  Natural England are reported to undertake Long Term Monitoring, or does that simply apply to their land holdings?  If NE approved the recent culls then they must have based any decision on robust scientific evidence?  The various farming / agri-industrial peer groups, must surely also have commissioned independent science to deliver evidence in support of any ‘arguement’?

In the interim Wildlife Trusts fund vaccination programmes.  When will there be a genuine collaborative endeavour, supported by sufficient funding which will see research deliver a balanced solution to a serious problem?

 

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