Bovine TB: Are badgers to
19th April 2002 - BBC NEWS
Badgers are now at the centre of the debate over
As government vets warn of a TB epidemic in cattle,
many farmers blame badgers for carrying the disease.
The UK Government is running trial culls of badger populations in
England, but they remain protected by law in Wales.
There are also claims farm that access restrictions during the
foot-and-mouth crisis meant livestock welfare measures may have been
BBC News Online talked to two people with differing opinions.
To really understand this
issue, we must look at the history of the eradication of TB in cattle.
representative, Farmers' Union of Wales
It started after World War II and we reached the point of eradication
across the country in the 1970s.
But, back then, badger numbers were nowhere near as high as they are
today and, as a farmer, if they were causing problems for me, I had the
right to reduce their numbers.
It's interesting to see that when the Badger Protection Act arrived in
1973 - to guard against badger baiting and rightly so - you find there is
a gradual increase in TB incidences.
There is a provision in the act for farmers to apply for licences if
they do have a problem - the trouble is they would automatically be
rejected because the government is running cull trials in England.
As soon as the Labour Government has its landslide victory, one of the
first things they did was stop badger removal operations.
In that intervening five-year period, we have seen a rise in TB in
I appreciate there are welfare issues and I have respect for some of
the representatives of the National Federation of Badger Groups, whom I
have met several times.
What I am afraid of is that farmers will come under so much pressure
that they will carry out illegal culls. The pressure is mounting all the
National Federation of Badger Groups Chief
Badgers are being made scapegoats. Over the last 25 years, the
government has gassed or shot more than 30,000 badgers in trying to stop
bovine TB spreading.
Even Defra scientists are saying that cattle-to-cattle transmission is
probably more significant.
We have warned the government already that there will be new outbreaks
in cattle in areas of the country because cattle are not being tested
before they are moved from TB hotspots.
Defra has already confirmed that this is happening, with confirmed
cases in Cumbria and Scotland tracked back to Cornwall.
We predicted this at the end of last year but ministers did not do
anything about it until they found new TB cases.
Farmers are restocking after the foot-and-mouth crisis from TB
hotspots, mainly in the West Country.
TB is being introduced into cattle in new areas, such as Denbighshire.
It is inevitable that there will be more outbreaks in areas such as
this which have not been infected before.
Foot-and-mouth showed how quickly disease can spread through animals,
the same applies to TB.
In the past year, cattle have been kept in barns because of
foot-and-mouth, breathing over each other and spreading the disease.
The reality is that bovine TB is spread from cow to cow, on the farm
and in the marketplace.
The causes of disease are not black-and-white.
Poor standards of animal health and welfare spread sickness like
The government has been killing badgers since the mid 1970s and that
has not stopped TB.
So while farmers are calling for badgers to be killed, we don't know
whether it is effective at all.
In many parts of Wales, the ministry has killed badgers, and none of
them have been infected with TB.
Bovine TB in cattle has spread to south Wales and the Midlands.
Often, it jumps miles to unaffected areas. Badgers do not travel these
great distances. Cattle do.
The badger slaughter policy has failed.
The badger killing experiment is inhumane. Even badgers with cubs have
Badger groups have rescued cold, wet and starving cubs found above
ground in the killing zones.
The government's persistent focus on badgers is impractical, unpopular,
inhumane and disastrous for wildlife.
People want to see the problem dealt with through improved cattle
testing and diagnosis and a cattle vaccine for TB.