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'Back off badgers', urges RSPCA

02 Feb 2006 - BBC News

Animal welfare charity the RSPCA is launching an advertising campaign aimed at preventing a large-scale cull of badgers in England.

Farmers have been pressing for a cull because they blame the animals for spreading TB among cows. But the RSPCA believes cattle movements are to blame for spreading the disease.

A public consultation on the issue ends on 10 March and the government will decide later this year whether a cull is necessary. "The RSPCA believes that badgers are being made the scapegoats for a rise in bovine TB in cattle," said Colin Booty, RSPCA senior scientific officer.

The RSPCA said current methods of testing may be missing about a third of infected cattle. Recent government research suggested infected cattle were the prime source of infection for other cows, it added. "Because of the current inadequacies of testing, there are far too many undiagnosed cattle moving about the country," the charity said.

The RSPCA is calling for more - and better quality - testing of cattle both before and after they are moved, and strict quarantining of new animals. Its advertisements urge people replying to the consultation to tell ministers to "back off badgers".

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