Cull is ‘unlikely’ to combat bovine TB

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GOVERNMENT proposals to permit licensed badger shooting have been welcomed by the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) in North Yorkshire.

But opponents argue that a cull would be prohibitively expensive and unlikely to have a meaningful effect on the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) it is meant to combat.

Proposals were passed this month to permit shooting in areas affected by the disease. While it has not had the same effect in North Yorkshire as it has in some areas of the country, the NFU warned of the dangers of allowing the disease to spread further.

Adam Bedford, the National Farmers’ Union senior food and farming advisor for Yorkshire, said: “We welcome it [the proposal] because cattle move around the country and it is in everyone’s interests to get on top of this disease. We don’t want the problem to get this far north.”

However, the Badger Trust - formed in the 1980s to provide a coordinated response to reports suggesting a connection between badgers and bovine TB - has come out in vehement opposition to the plans claiming there is no scientific basis for them.

National spokesman for the Badger Trust, Jack Reedy, told the Herald: “Badger culling, if it comes to pass, will represent a triumph of prejudice over science and of the feel-good factor over common sense.”

He said it was a mistake to believe killing badgers was essential to clear up bovine TB and at best it would save one sixth of herd infections over nine years.

And that, he said, only applies if stringent conditions are met: aculling area which was at least eight miles by eight, in which 70 per cent of the area is targeted, and 70 per cent of the badger population is eradicated within a short period.

“This would be prohibitively expensive and make no meaningful contribution to the control of the disease,” said Mr Reedy, “Whereas cattle-based measures rigorously applied - testing, slaughtering infected animals and observing movement rules - would be sufficient.”

He added: “Worst of all the means of killing badgers just announced is shooting free running animals at night and in the open.

“This is likely to be literally hit and miss, and it will be difficult to prove the 70 per cent kill rate and meet the requirement that kills should be quick and human.”

No one from the area will be able to apply for a license as they will only be granted in areas where the disease is a problem.

Currently, cattle in Yorkshire are only tested for bovine tuberculosis once every four years, compared to affected areas of the country where they are tested annually.

Farmer and chair of the Pateley Bridge lifestock auction centre, Judy Middlemiss, said: “[Bovine TB] just doesn’t really affect us in this area as much as it does in the Midlands.

“As far as I know, it hasn’t affected anyone in the area, but as soon as it starts to affect farmers and it hits their pockets, they will be up in arms.”