Vets have complained to the BBC following a ‘hugely biased’ Radio 4 programme on the gradual phasing out of the badger cull which allowed a well-known opponent of culling to go unchallenged.
Prof Rosie Woodroofe, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, told the broadcaster’s Inside Science programme that vaccination of both badgers and cattle was the most effective way to get on top of bovine TB (bTB) and that the main route of transmission was from cattle-to-cattle.
Prof Woodroffe also said the current culls had produced no positive results in reducing the number of reactor cattle and instead had caused disruption in badger groups forcing infected animals into territories left vacant by those removed (perturbation).
Last month, Defra announced a gradual reduction in ‘intensive’ culling, with increased use of cattle and badger vaccination when the weight of the disease in badgers had been addressed.
Dr Lewis Thomas, secretary of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, and Roger Blowey, a fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said Prof Woodroofe’s claims ignored peer reviewed scientific evidence which showed badger culling was helping to reduce bTB incident rates in cattle and that, as yet, there was no effective vaccine against bTB for either cattle or badgers.
Dr Lewis said: “The only vaccine available [BCG] is not a reliable or efficacious vaccine in man and other mammals [only 70 per cent efficacy in man].
“The so-called recent breakthrough in cattle vaccination, the DIVA test that differentiates vaccinated cattle from infected cattle, is no advance in immunisation/protection of cattle over previous unsatisfactory trials with BCG.”
Mr Blowey added: “I was amazed at the hugely biased interview. The actual current state of knowledge regarding bTB in cattle was totally ignored. Cattle vaccination has been tried in the past and found to be unsuccessful.”
Mr Blowey highlighted the only UK badger vaccination trial in South Gloucestershire, which found after four-and-a-half years of bTB vaccination of badgers, ‘there was absolutely no measurable effect on bTB in cattle’.
He said: “In comparison, after four years of badger culling, there was a 66 per cent reduction in bTB in the Gloucester cull zone.”
The BBC was approached for comment.