Badgers targeted over bovine TB
02 December 2004 - BBC News
They stand quietly, heads bowed, waiting to be loaded for what will be their final journey.
It is a scene which farmer Will Galway has witnessed too often.
It is all the more poignant as these are young
productive cows, some heavily pregnant, but all damned by test results
which show that they are infected with tuberculosis.
The hot breath they blow into the cold winter air is heavy with the highly infectious TB microbacterium, which scars the lungs.
On this occasion, Mr Galway is losing 79 cows.
But it is something he has to deal with every year, as time and again his dairy herd becomes infected with TB.
Like many farmers he has little doubt about the source of infection.
On the day the cows were tested he found a dead badger on his land.
A government laboratory later confirmed that the badger
was infected with the same bovine tuberculosis which his cows had
The badger link is firmly placed in the minds of farmers who frequently see evidence of badgers on their land.
After nightfall the badgers come out of their setts to search for grubs and worms in the fields where cattle graze.
On a clear, crisp winter night, we watch a badger sett at the top of a wooded slope not far from Strangford Lough.
Fresh earthworks are all around and there is a well-worn path through the leaf-strewn forest floor towards the fields below.
A gentle breeze rustles through the woods and then there is a heavy scent on the sharp night air - the badgers are stirring.
With more than 4,500 cattle herds now under TB
restrictions, many farmers want the government to grasp the nettle and
move in to cull infected badgers.
The President of the Ulster Farmers' Union, Campbell Tweed, said the evidence is clear.
He said: "We seem to have about 30% of dead badgers tested which are affected and we know where the pockets of infection are."
But wildlife and welfare groups remain to be convinced
that killing badgers is the way to solve the problem of tuberculosis in
Stephen Philpott of the Ulster Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said no convincing evidence has been
presented to support the culling of what is a protected species.
He said: "The USPCA has been called out regularly to badger setts which have been flooded with slurry. Other methods equally as ghastly have been used against badgers and that is why they had to be protected in the first place."
Evidence from illegal badger culls does little to
support the idea that a wider cull would dent the TB problem in the
Northern Ireland cattle herd, he said.
"If these methods have being going on so long why hasn't that by itself controlled the disease?," asked Mr Philpott.
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