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Badger culls 'not cost-effective'

10 February 2010 - BBC News

Badger culls are unlikely to be a cost-effective way of controlling bovine TB in cattle, a report warns. The Imperial College London and Zoological Society of London report comes ahead of a controversial cull in west Wales planned for later this year. The report, which studied the aftermath of cull trials in England, claims the benefits "disappear" after four years.

The report, commissioned by DEFRA, says benefits from widespread badger culling are not sustained three-and-a-half years after a cull has ended. It also says "patchy," and "unco-ordinated circumstances" are highly likely to increase rather than reduce incidences of bovine TB in cattle. The report focuses on the Krebbs trials, which took place in England between 1998 and 2005. It questions if the financial benefit seen after culling is worthwhile.

Prof Christl Donnelly, senior author of the study from Imperial College London, said: "Bovine TB is a big problem in Britain and the disease can profoundly affect farmers' livelihoods. We know that it is transmitted between cattle and badgers, so the randomised badger culling trial was set up to find out if culling badgers would help control the spread of the disease. There has been some controversy over badger culling as a bovine TB control method and it has been unpopular with the general public. Although badger culling reduced cattle bovine TB during the trial and immediately thereafter, our new study shows that the beneficial effects are not sustained, disappearing four years post-cull."

Prof Donnelly said the research also suggested the savings farmers and the government would make by reducing bovine TB infections in cattle were two or three times less than the cost of repeated badger culls as undertaken in the trial. "This is not a cost-effective contribution to preventing bovine TB infections in cattle," added Prof Donnelly.

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