Badger culling:An out-dated approach to bovine TB

After watching Panorama Monday evening, I felt compelled to look into the subject of badger culling and bovine TB, and have come up with the following: culling is an expensive solution for little benefit that could be easily avoided by being allowed to use vaccines. However this seems to have eluded politicians in Parliament both in the UK and Europe.

Badgers are the traditional bad guys for bovine TB. Although much loved by the public, they do unfortunately carry the disease. So when they’re found to be grazing near cows, and cows get TB, they’re to blame.

The solution that inevitably comes to mind is to cull the population of badgers; eradicate the sources, lose the problem. However, this was tried in an experiment called the randomised Badger Culling Trial, or RBCT for short. This took place between 1998 and 2007 in thirty 100 square kilometer areas in England, which were then sorted into ‘triplets’. Some areas experienced culling, others were used for observation.

The results of the study, found here, showed that while incidences of bovine TB decreased in the centre of the culling areas, it increased around the edges of the borders as the badgers migrated to avoid it. As outlined in paragraph 9.26 in the Economic Aspects of TB Control, this means the negative economic effects outweigh the positives, and as stated on Panorama, the positive results are negligible in terms of preventing large outbreaks of TB. In simple terms, then, it’s barely works and costs too bloody much.

The alternative, then is too used a vaccine. This has been researched extensively over the years by Defra, but is currently being prevented from use by the EU as it causes problems with the current mode of testing for bovine TB. Naturally scientists are working on other tests for the disease, but best estimates reckon it will take around 5 years for the pencil pushers to allow such things to be used in the field, along with the vaccine.

Currently, and absolutely not because of any public pressure or pressure from organisations such as the RSPCA, the cull has been put off until at least next June. I understand the dairy industry is worth over £1 billion, but I just don’t see the point of going forward with a plan that has been proven to be more hassle than it’s worth just because it seems like the easiest option.

Unfortunately, I’m not the one with my finger on the trigger.

What are your thoughts on the planned cull? necessary evil or waste of time and life? Let me know in the comments below.

Nicky

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