The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned against a “kneejerk reaction” to a new report on tackling bovine tuberculosis, which concludes that badger culling is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of helping control the disease in Britain.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned against a kneejerk reaction to a new report on tackling bovine tuberculosis, which concludes that badger culling is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of helping control the disease in Britain.
The report entitled “The duration of the effects of repeated widespread badger culling on cattle TB following the cessation of culling” – written by Helen Jenkins, Rosie Woodroffe, and Christl Donnelly and published on PLoS ONE – analyses data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) undertaken between 1998 and 2005 by DEFRA. It found that incidence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle reduced during culling but that the reductions subsequently declined after its cessation.
A DEFRA spokesman told Vetsonline: “This new paper updates earlier results which were taken into account when the Secretary of State reached his decision on badger culling.
“DEFRA has asked the independent Bovine TB Science Advisory Body, which reviews all relevant scientific evidence as it emerges, to undertake some additional analysis to help us fully understand this new data and its implications.”
However, BVA president Bill Reilly said: “This paper clearly demonstrates that badger culling did have an impact on the incidence of bovine TB in cattle, which is a very positive outcome.
“The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) was undertaken in very specific circumstances and it could be misleading to extrapolate the findings to any future control programme. What we can learn from this paper is that any future badger cull, such as the proposed cull in West Wales, must be only one part of a package of control measures and take account of the findings resulting from the RBCT.”
Professor Reilly said the report, which was based on a single trial, concludes that badger culling is not cost-effective. In response, he pointed out that the cost of TB to farmers and the government is already incredibly high, and that investment now could reduce the costs in the longer term.
He concluded: “The BVA warns against a kneejerk reaction to this paper that would rule out badger culling in the future. Bovine TB is devastating both livestock and wildlife and a range of control measures, including targeted badger culling, must be employed if we are to tackle the disease in the long term.”
In response, DEFRA claimed it was determined to make progress towards eradicating bovine TB, and said a project to trap and vaccinate badgers had already begun in six areas of England that have a high incidence of bovine TB in cattle.