Badger cull announced in Northern Ireland

adgers are set to be culled in Northern Ireland due to the suspected, but unproven, link between badgers and bovine tuberculosis.

Bovine TB affects around 6% of cattle in NI and is on the rise. In the past Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture has been trapping badgers and vaccinating them against TB.

Badger_Cull_2

Despite this however, bovine TB is becoming more of a problem. Now the authorities have announced that they will continue to trap badgers but will now kill any which are infected. This is part of a scientific study and will only take place in a 100km squared area in County Down. Last year the trapping project resulted in 280 badgers being trapped, vaccinated and re-released. A separate study has shown that 17% of badgers have TB meaning that if 280 badgers are caught again, around 50 will be killed.

Both England and the Republic of Ireland have culling practises in place. Wales only has a vaccination policy and Scotland is currently free of bovine TB.

The culling has no scientific basis, quite the opposite in fact. Studies have shown that incidences of bovine TB in cattle actually increased during culling. Separate studies have concluded that cattle to cattle transmission is a huge problem that has been underemphasised and needs to be tackled. With their already being studies showing that culling is not effective, and with an apparent failure in the vaccination programme to reduce TB it has to be questioned whether or not the badgers are truly at fault here. If vaccinating or killing badgers doesn’t reduce the spread of bovine TB then why exactly are we doing it?

It appears the media has ingrained it in all of us that badgers are to blame when the evidence says nothing of the sort. More needs to be understood about the disease before we take action. It’s quite possible that an improvement if farming practises would reduce the spread of disease as would better identification and isolation of infected animals. As was famously said “It’s only a mistake if you make it twice. The first time is a lesson”. We appear not to have learned from our previous mistakes and continue to cull without any evidence that it is helping.

References

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01144.x/pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-856X.2009.00387.x/abstract;jsessionid=EB1EA401ACBB3F90D46EF49AD80B6891.f04t01?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v426/n6968/abs/nature02192.html

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Scott Thomson

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