Research claiming bovine tuberculosis (bTB) control tactics in Wales and Scotland – which don’t involve badger culling – are leading the way in reducing the disease, has been welcomed by Humane Society International (HSI).
They found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB-free herds in Scotland and Wales. If the current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.
HSI’s veterinary advisor Alastair Macmillan was formerly at Defra, where he led the team that provided scientific advice to government and policy makers on animal health and welfare (and particularly on bovine TB), as well as managed the bovine TB, animal welfare and endemic diseases research programmes.
Prof Macmillan said: “This new paper provides extremely strong evidence of what many experts in veterinary disease control have known for many years – that it is crucial to test cattle as frequently as possible to control bovine TB.
“The Queen Mary researchers have shown, without doubt, that killing badgers will have little effect, while employing the policies of Wales and Scotland, where badgers are not culled, will continue to have a dramatic impact on reducing TB in cattle.
“Frequent cattle testing is particularly important as the sensitivity of currently available diagnostic tests is not very high, meaning cattle incubating TB are not detected and are allowed to remain in the herd to infect others over the following months.
“These cattle are by far the most common reason why cattle herds suffer repeated TB breakdowns, not badgers. The Government must heed this evidence and stop wasting time and resources on killing badgers to no effect.
“All efforts must instead be focused on far more frequent cattle testing and strict cattle movement control. How much more research and scientific evidence does this government need before it listens to the rational facts?”
A short video of Matthew Evans, head of school of biological and chemical sciences at Queen Mary, explaining his research on bTB can be viewed at https://youtu.be/bgKt1QHMc-k