September 9, 2020


UK badger cull programme extended to reduce cattle bovine TB


The British government has expanded a badger culling programme, introduced to reduce bovine tuberculosis (TB) among cattle, to 11 more areas in England, The Guardian reported.

This is despite a government pledge to phase out the measure following scientific reviews showing no definite proof that culling works to reduce bovine TB.


Wildlife groups such as the Badger Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have condemned the move, as the government had committed to phase out badger culling and replace the programme with TB vaccination on badgers and cattle following a TB review from Sir Charles Godfray.

More than 30,000 cattle are slaughtered prematurely in England annually due to bovine TB, but there is no conclusive evidence as to how badgers contribute to the spread of the disease.


Badger culling began in 2013, with 26,594 infected cattle slaughtered. In 2018, 32,925 cattle were slaughtered due to bovine TB.


While the Badger Trust said the government did not publish scientifically proven evidence that bovine TB can be reduced through badger culling, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said there has been lower cattle TB outbreaks in Gloucestershire (66%) and Somerset (37%) according to peer-reviewed research.


Stuart Roberts, deputy president of NFU, said they support the 25-year badger culling programme as it gives local farmers a lifeline in fighting bovine TB, in addition to improving cattle movements, greater biosecurity and managing the disease in wildlife.


Critics said the 66% reduction of bovine TB in Gloucestershire was followed by 130% increase the next year.


Iain McGill, a vet said bovine TB in cattle is spreading because the disease is undetected through the current skin test as it only positively detects half of infected cattle. The vet signed an open letter in the Veterinary Record to Boris Johnson, alongside prominent wildlife personalities Jane Goodall, Chris Packham and others.


The UK government said it will phase out badger culling over the coming years while ensuring that culls remain a tool that can be used when scientific evidence proves it.


The government awarded GBP 500,000 (~US$647,000; GBP 1 = US$1.29) in grants for projects to devise better diagnostic tools to detect bovine TB in cattle.


George Eustice, the environment secretary, said bovine TB costs taxpayers over GBP 100 million (~US$129.4 million) annually. He said alternative strategies to prevent bovine TB such as vaccination and better tests are being developed to eliminate the disease and reduce badger culling in the country.


-      The Guardian