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From the editor: Vaccination must be part of wider bTB strategy

Unlike previous pandemics or plagues, Covid-19 has happened at a time when the ability to monitor the spread of the disease has been far more advanced than any previous era.

Scientists have spoken of their fascination in watching the pandemic unfold and, hopefully, learning lessons about how to defeat it.

 

As stark as it may seem, at governmental level it has been as much about data and emerging trends as it has been the human cost on the ground. After all, the decision to unlock life in England on July 19 when cases are surging will be based on underlying trends, datasets and clinical analysis (we hope).

 

In some respects the battle farming has waged against bovine TB for a generation is as much based on statistics as the Covid-19 pandemic is. But whether the lessons learned from one are being applied to the other, as union leaders have urged this week, will be questioned by many.


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One of the key strands in the battle to beat Covid-19 has been about having a suite of measures to stop the spread of the disease, whether that has been making people wear masks, stopping them from socialising and, ultimately, the vaccination programme. It has been a multi-layered approach to stopping the spread.

 

And so it is with bTB, whether that is widespread cattle testing, the establishment of different areas of risk, culling badgers in England or, latterly, vaccination of cattle and disease vectors; they are all part of farming’s suite of measures. The problem for agriculture, of course, is that bTB becomes politicised and different nations, as in the human pandemic, diverge in the routes they take.

 

While many farmers will look hopefully on the cattle vaccination trials, many still believe culling badgers needs to be part of the solution, especially when the data in the cull areas seems to suggest it is making a difference to the spread of the disease. The war on bTB will not be won by one thing alone, but rather a range of measures which eventually and tough decisions which eventually nullify the disease.

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