The Badger Trust is challenging claims by the NFU that badgers may be spreading bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to domestic pets, through which humans can contract respiratory disease.

According to the National Farmers’ Union, “there is concern about badgers spreading [bovine tuberculosis -bTB] via bodily fluids left in the garden to pets” and “humans can pickup the respiratory disease through close contact with cats and dogs -though it is not fatal”.

The probability of a pet being infected by badgers is open to conjecture, says the Badger TrustIn response to these comments, the Badger Trust claimed: “Unsubstantiated assertions about ‘concern’ and ‘can pick up’ are not proof and amount to scaremongering. In fact only a very small proportion, 6.2 per cent, of all British herds are infected over a whole year. The probability of a pet being infected by badgers in a garden is only open to conjecture.”

According to the trust, DEFRA considers the risk to people contracting TB from cattle inGreat Britain as “very low”. The government department also claims that fewer than one percent of all confirmed cases of TB in humans is due toinfection with [bovine TB]. The HealthProtection Agency identifies the current risk posed by M. bovisto human health as “negligible”. Further, DEFRA does not mentionbadgers in any of its recommendations about minimising risk.

The trust said it was “surprised” that the NFU should suggest a risk of thedisease being passed on to humans from pets without offering anyevidence of the likelihood of the extended chain of circumstances thatwould be required.

A spokesman said: “Lack of rigour of this kind is unhelpful in thefight against an intractable and complex disease.”

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