Following the Zuckerman report of 1980 culling strategy was compromised due to welfare concerns. In 1997 the Krebs report concluded that the evidence linking badgers to the spread of bovine TB was compelling. But in spite of this culling was abandoned in 1997 and the nine year Randomised Badger Culling Trials embarked upon, since when the disease has escalated out of control.
All the scientific evidence since 1971, when bovine TB was first discovered in badgers and the subsequent culling trials at Thornbury, Steeple Leaze, Hartland point, East Offaly and the Irish Four Counties Trial demonstrated a massive reduction in associated herd breakdowns. Even the seriously flawed Randomised Badger Culling Trials showed a 23% reduction in disease (see ref 2010 below).
Perturbation (induced dispersal of infected badgers) was not a problem in the 5 earlier trials where culling efficiency was in excess of 80%; only in the RBCTs, with the hopelessly inadequate culling rates, was perturbation experienced (see reference 2010 below).
Cattle to cattle transmission is not the major factor in the spread of disease. Several complementary pieces of evidence support this statement since the CVO declared in 1995 that 90% of outbreaks were badger related. It will not have changed since then (see refs 2013 & 2014 below).
Failure to control TB in badgers has inevitably resulted in spill over into other wild and domestic animals including deer, cats, dogs, alpacas and humans. The recent threat to humans from alpacas is of particular concern. Before pasteurisation of milk in the 1950s bovine TB accounted for thousands of human cases of TB.
Vaccination of cattle and badgers is not a realistic or desirable strategy for controlling TB. The scientific basis of the Badger BCG vaccine, currently being widely deployed, which has only a Limited Marketing Authority, is highly questionable. Serious doubts exist about the practicality, effectiveness and safety to badgers of vaccination with BCG in the field (see refs 2010, 2013, 2014b below).
Large numbers of badgers suffer a painful and protracted death from this wretched disease and can take up to 2 years to die. Some 2,000 are estimated to die annually from bovine TB in the south west alone. They constitute the so called super excretors and are the major source of infection for cattle.
Emaciated badger carcass: the internal organs were riddled with TB lesions
The florid nature of the disease in badgers is quite different from cattle which wall off the infection in fibrous tubercles, which accounts for the low rate of cattle to cattle transmission of the disease (see Gallagher & Clifton Hadley, 2000 below).
The inexorable and unchecked rise in the disease in both cattle and badgers since the late 1990s is a social, animal welfare and agricultural scandal. The disease was almost eradicated in the mid 80s by a combination of TB testing of cattle, slaughter of reactors and culling of badgers.
Killing more and more cattle is clearly not going to control the disease. Strategic culling of infected badgers underground in areas of endemic infection by the most humane method available, targeted by PCR testing is the only realistic strategy for controlling the disease in both badgers and cattle.
The disease is not going to be reduced by the currently available BCG vaccine which is of dubious and unproven efficacy. And doing nothing is not a humane option for either badgers or cattle, which leaves targeted culling of infected badgers as the only proven strategy.
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