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Top scientists reject badger cull

[Tuesday 11 April 2006]

Wildlife groups have warmly welcomed a statement from some of Britain's top boffins, saying there is no scientific evidence to justify killing Badgers to control the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis.

The notifiable disease is currently on the increase among Britain's dairy and beef cattle herds, yet opinion is sharply divided over how to control its spread. Last month saw restrictions imposed on the movement of cattle.

Scientists reject Badger cull to control Bovine TB
Scientists reject Badger cull to control Bovine TB

It is a widely held opinion among experts that Badgers, which do carry the disease, are partly responsible for its spread among the cattle population. Environment department Defra has recently concluded a public consultation on the merits of a widespread Badger cull. Farmers' representatives are broadly in favour of such a course, whilst wildlife groups have reacted angrily to the proposal.

Professor David Read, Vice President of the Royal Society, said:

"The case for badger culling is not clear cut. The introduction of culling could result in an increase or a decrease of bTB. Which of these will predominate is likely to depend upon the details of the culling regime adopted.

"There is some evidence to suggest that culling would need to occur over at least 300 square km to result in a net decrease in badger to cattle TB transmission rates. Culling badgers over such a large area would require serious consideration of the impact on the conservation status of badgers."

The Society goes on to suggest that there are other viable methods to reduce the transmission of the disease. The introduction of 'biosecurity' measures for example, aimed at reducing badger and cattle contact and cattle to cattle contact, is one option highlighted.

Trevor Lawson, spokesman for the Badger Trust, commented: "When the badger culling trial was initiated in 1997, politicians from all parties promised that bovine TB strategy would be based on the outcomes of sound scientific research. The science is now as sound as we are likely to get.

"There is universal agreement in the scientific community that badger culling will not bring bovine TB under control unless badgers are virtually exterminated. The public is supportive of farmers, but not at any price - and eradication on that scale is not publicly acceptable."

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