Leading vets have writ-ten to the UK’s farming Minister George Eustice demanding that he withdraws his recent claim that badger culling has reduced bovine TB by 50 per cent.
The Minister’s statement has been roundly condemned by independent experts who
point out that the Govern-ment’s own data does not support his claim.
The vets told Mr Eustice that the prevalence of bovine TB in cattle is no lower than it was before culling, despite the killing and removal of 1,879 badgers in Gloucestershire and 1,777 in Somerset. A total of 3,656 badgers have been killed with no perceivable disease control benefits.
“Put simply, there are approximately the same proportion of bTB affected herds now, as there were before culling started. Badger culling has not resulted in a decrease in bTB in cattle in cull zones, for the prevalence remains unchanged. Any statement made to the contrary is simply untrue,” the vets stated in their letter.
Badger cull proponents had been warned by experts that badger culling would be a costly and pointless exercise. At least 70 per cent of badgers in cull zones are indiscriminately shot even though the greater number of badgers are free of disease.
A similar trap and shoot badger culling strategy has been proposed for Northern Ireland. Some politicians and farming groups in the Province have repeated claims that the English culls have been successful and that a badger cull should be introduced here as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Badger Group said: “We recognise the emotional and financial hardship that TB causes to families and communities.
“However, misleading cl-aims that killing badgers has reduced bovine TB have been shown to be untrue by independent experts.
“Badger culling is a deeply unpopular strategy that will contribute nothing to TB control and risks damaging the image of Northern Ireland farming.
“We urge farming leaders, politicians and others calling for a cull to think again.”
The badger group believes that vaccination offers a wildlife option that will attract the broadest support and allow the NI bovine TB strategy to move forward. It pointed to a survey that asked farmers which of the two wildlife interventions they would prefer. Over twice as many farmers preferred a vaccination strategy over a badger cull.
“The role of badgers in the spread of disease has been greatly overstated and there is now irrefutable evidence that badgers are catching TB from cattle.
“The only proven way to reduce the prevalence of bovine TB in badgers is through vaccination. Badger culling has failed to eradicate TB in the South of Ireland and the Irish government is now prioritising badger vaccination and more effect-ive cattle measures,” the spokesperson added.