Last week I presented my views, alongside my vet, at a Labour party fringe meeting on why culling badgers in the endemic bTB areas is essential.
In a nutshell its simple, vaccinating infected badgers doesn’t work and cattle control measures alone have failed to stop the spread of TB from the South West to the North and East. Either you believe the anti-cull lobby that this is due to industrial pollution with poor practice and criminal farmer activity catching on and spreading in this pattern, or you accept Defra’s system has been unfit for purpose and that disease is slowly radiating out.
I was sincerely disappointed by the Labour MP Angela Smiths presentation, choosing to look at part of the cull data from the RBCT which suggested culling as conducted in the trial was of limited benefit. Why dismiss the data from the period post-cull which was not included in the ISG final report, but which was written up by the same scientists which showed in the two years after culling stopped, bTB dropped by 50 per cent within the proactive cull areas.
Simply choosing a window of analysis which reduces the benefits of a cull to suit your political argument to avoid culling is wholly unacceptable. We have to deal with the infected wildlife reservoir or bTB will spread as it has been across the country this is the only difference between the LRA and HRA.
I hope more farmers and vets will make this argument to the public in general, as politicians run scared of voter revulsion at the idea of culling potentially healthy badgers and this will mean we will not turn the tide on this terrible disease affecting 9,000 family businesses every year.
If you take a modest infection rate in badgers of 15 per cent, then it is highly probable there are more infected individual badgers within the HRA than there are cattle reactors. There are two key maintenance hosts for bTB but control measures for only one, is it any wonder we’ve got into such a mess.
I am glad to have done it but I’m also glad its over as we were expecting 750 competitors at our British Eventing horse trials last weekend and there was much still to do. I think my wife’s happy too as she’s threatened to dress up as a badger if I spend any more evenings ignoring her and reading scientific papers.