Badger culls 'undermine search for TB vaccine'
17 Dec 2005 - Independent
By Jonathan Brown
The search for an effective vaccine to combat TB in badgers could be
undermined if the Government goes ahead with proposals for widescale culls,
ministers have been warned.
Animal rights groups believe the "rush to slaughter" looks likely to go ahead
at the cost of the only existing vaccine study, due to start in September.
They are dismayed after the Government this week appeared to give the
go-ahead to a culling policy in the worst-affected areas while making no extra
provision in the hunt for a vaccine.
According to maps published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs, some of the most intensive slaughtering will be in and around
Cirencester in Gloucestershire. This is where earlier this week the minister
responsible for animal welfare, Ben Bradshaw, confirmed that a 50km-square area
would be set aside to trial a BCG vaccine for the mammals. Mr Bradshaw said the
trial would start in the autumn and last for three years. But the RSPCA believes
the culls, which could begin as early as May, are likely to seriously impinge on
the area under study. Culling has been shown to cause perturbation in badgers -
the process whereby social groups break up and move to new territory. It is the
main reason, it is argued, why culling trials have resulted in a net increase in
the number of cases of TB in badgers.
Colin Booty, the RSPCA's senior scientific officer, said: "The area where
they are conducting the vaccine trials would be surrounded. Culling has been
proved to cause badger perturbation. What affect will this have on the vaccine
Meanwhile, Professor John Bourne, chairman of the Independent Scientific
Group on Cattle and TB, said he was "disappointed" by the Government's reading
of his report into the effects of the culling trials. "They seem to have ignored
the fact that limited culling will inevitably lead to perturbation and an
increase in disease incidence," he told BBC Radio.
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