New peer-reviewed, scientific evidence proves the effectiveness of badger culling in reducing the outbreaks of TB in cattle and demonstrates the success of the Government’s 25-year eradication strategy, according to the NFU.
The research into the effectiveness of the badger cull in the original cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset showed a 66 per cent reduction in new TB breakdowns in cattle in Gloucestershire and a 37 per cent reduction in Somerset.
NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “This peer-reviewed research definitively shows the phenomenal impact culling badgers has on reducing TB levels in cattle. There should now be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this policy works.
“Controlling the disease in wildlife is a crucial element to tackling this devastating disease, alongside a range of measures such as enhanced biosecurity and strengthening cattle movement controls.
“On such a strong scientific basis, it is absolutely vital that the Government’s strategy is continued in order to see reductions in all areas where TB is endemic.
“When this strategy began, opponents to it cited estimates that wildlife control would only deliver reductions of 16 per cent in TB outbreaks in cattle, at best. It is clear from this peer-reviewed evidence that they were wrong.
“Not only is there no evidence of increased incidence rates of TB in buffer areas, including no perturbation, the research reinforces the Chief Vet’s view that proactive wildlife control forms a central part of a strategy to tackle the disease.
“Last year, nearly 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of this terrible disease and more than 3,600 farms that had previously been clear were affected by it.
“This study should signal the end of the debate that keeps giving a false equivalence between vaccination and culling as a strategy to reduce infection in cattle.”
James Russell, the British Veterinary Association’s Junior Vice President, said the study published in the Nature Scientific Reports was encouraging and offered further evidence that badger culling can result in significant reductions in the number of new cases of TB in cattle.
He went on: “However, they come with the caveat that the data only relates to the first three cull areas, and the variability within these alone makes it too early to draw firm conclusions that culling will reduce incidence significantly in all 40 areas where it is now taking place.
“BVA’s expert working group is currently considering all aspects of disease control looking at cattle testing, removal of reactors, compensation and control in other farmed animals as well as the culling and vaccination of badgers. The group will consider this additional evidence as we develop our new policy on bTB.
“We continue to support a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to tackling bTB, including the use of badger culling where there is a demonstrated need and where it is done safely, humanely and effectively as part of a comprehensive strategy.
“The best way of halting the spread of this devastating disease is enhancing our understanding of bTB and applying that evidence to the eradication process.”