Culling Badgers: Another Muddle

There appears to be another muddle at the heart of the cancellation of the proposed badger cull. Notwithstanding that, animal rights campaigners are delighted. This blog hopes for a more reasoned approach, as the present rationale for the cull appears as muddled as the delay which has stopped it.

If there were powerful evidence to demonstrate that badgers spread TB to cattle and that reducing their numbers by seventy per cent would greatly reduce or even eliminate the disease which causes much loss and heartache to farmers, this blog would support it. Unfortunately this is not really the case. Cattle will still catch TB from each other and the cull would only reduce, at best and with the most optimistic interpretation of the data, by fifteen per cent. This is too small an uncertain margin to set against the slaughter of tens of thousands of badgers.

TB in cattle should be controlled by vaccinating the cattle. It may well be necessary to control badger numbers in some areas of over population, for their own good and for ecological reasons, in the same way as deer and foxes, but this does not mean wholesale slaughter, nor is it linked to the spread of TB. The problem with the cattle vaccination is that it is not yet possible to differentiate, when testing cattle for TB, whether an animal showing positive either has the disease, or is vaccinated. Because no untested cattle without an all clear can be exported to the EU, a market worth about £1.5 billion to farmers, there is a reluctance to spend money on a vaccination which would effectively halt beef exports to a very big market.

This blog does not consider a cruel and unnecessary slaughter of a rather wonderful and iconic animal, many of whom live happily close to my cottage, is the right way to deal with this. Better surely to find a way of separating the identity of the vaccinated from the diseased. This cannot be that difficult a problem to overcome surely?

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