Vets say Badger culling needed to tackle TB in Britain

On 9th July 2009 the British Veterinary Association agreed a policy statement on the issue of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in Britain.

Nicky Paull, President of the BVA, said “Bovine TB has an unacceptable impact on animal health and welfare and has the potential to be a risk to public health. Yet the current strategy for dealing with it is inadequate.”

The current Government strategy for dealing with bovine tuberculosis is set out in the on the Defra website.

Nicky Paull continued “Veterinary surgeons take an active role in surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of disease and we know that the only way to control bTB is through simultaneous and coordinated measures across all susceptible species.”

This is really where the frustration in Britain’s countryside lies, the current half hearted and one sided attempts to tackle bTB.

As a wildlife lover I would hate to see an unnecessary badger cull but we cannot deny that the badger population is a reservoir for TB. Even if we slaughtered every cow in Britain TB would still be carried and transmitted among badgers .. not a disease I would wish on any animal.

Other countries have had to tackle the problem of bTB in it’s cattle herds but it’s important to note that where countries successfully dealt with the threat of bTB they did so by dealing with not only the disease among cattle but also in the wildlife population.

What jumps out at me in the BVA policy statement on bTB is:

The current Government Strategy for bTB control is inadequate.

Control measures in cattle must be accompanied by simultaneous and coordinated measures in badgers and other wildlife and susceptible farmed species including deer and camelids for the success of any eradication programme.

Failure to tackle wildlife sources of infection has prolonged the presence of the disease in all affected species populations.

For years we have heard much talk of a two pronged attack but almost no action for decades. Everyone seems to be waiting for absolute proof of where and how bTB is transmitted between species and some scientists suggest a badger cull would in fact spread bTB.

Perhaps it’s time we accepted that we don’t have all the answers but sitting on our hands shelling out millions to farmers for slaughtered herds while waiting for Divine inspiration is not the way forward in tackling this problem.

British vets are at the forefront of tackling this disease in Britain and as animal welfare is their major concern I doubt they would make such a policy decision lightly.

Nicky Paull states “In no way does our new policy position detract from the continued focus on cattle-to-cattle spread, within both the veterinary profession and the farming community, which continues to play a key role in attempts to control the disease But the BVA believes that humane, targeted and managed culling of badgers in some areas will be necessary if we are to reverse the increasing prevalence of bTB.”

We need to try anything and everything to eradicate bTB from British cattle herds and wildlife, but not just as a knee jerk reaction (as perhaps we will see in Wales).

As we don’t seem to be able to agree on a strategy for tuberculosis then in my mind we have got the the ‘try it and see what happens stage’ because current policies are doing nothing to tackle the problem.

To learn more about the issue of bovine tuberculosis we have a series of articles:

Bovine TB part 1

Bovine TB part 2

Bovine TB part 3

Bovine TB conclusion

Britain exports Bovine TB

Welsh badger cull

It will be interesting to see the Government’s reaction, if any, to the BVA’s policy statement on Bovine Tuberculosis.

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