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Badger Cull Will Slash TB Cases

03 December 2010

WALES, UK - The proposed five-year badger cull in north Pembrokeshire could slash heartbreaking bovine TB herd outbreaks by between 68 and 81 and that could easily be an underestimate, the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) revealed at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair last week.

The figures were included in the union's response to a Welsh Assembly Government consultation paper on badger culling in the area which includes 321 farms with cattle.

Computer modelling based upon the results of previous badger culls predicts that a cull in north Pembrokeshire could reduce confirmed herd outbreaks by between 30 and 44 during a five year culling period, and by around 38 in the four years afterwards.

The results form part of the FUW's comprehensive evidence supporting WAG's proposals, in which the union makes it clear that those who believe badger culling doesn't work are "by definition, wrong".

FUW vice president and bTB spokesman Brian Walters said: "The bottom line is that if badger culling wasn't going to work, then we wouldn't be supporting it.

"The fact of the matter is that all the evidence shows it works, and there is no other proven method which would have such a dramatic effect on TB incidences in the area.

"The bTB breakdown rate in the intensive action area (IAA) is one of the highest in the northern hemisphere, and the disease desperately needs to be dealt with in the area to minimise the risk to other mammals including humans."

The response highlights the fact that the badger culling in the Irish Four Counties trials led to a 60-96 per cent decrease in the rate at which herds became the subject of confirmed bTB restriction and that, in the four years after culling came to an end in the English Badger Culling Trial areas, incidences were reduced in and around proactive culling areas by 34.1 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

The latter equates to around 155 confirmed herd breakdowns being prevented in and around the ten English culling areas between June 2006 and July 2010.

The FUW's response also makes a number of points in relation to specific questions raised in the WAG consultation document including the use of an injectable vaccine, and access to land for culling.

"Modelling work recently produced by the Food and Environment Research Agency suggests that injecting badgers with vaccine could help reduce disease incidences in cattle, but that both ring vaccination around culling areas, and culling alone are likely to be more effective strategies," said Mr Walters.

"The work also suggests that an approach involving both culling and ring vaccination would require considerably more resources than culling alone.

"The FUW fully supports the development of an effective and safe oral vaccine for badgers as a means by which to reduce the prevalence of bTB in cattle and badgers and would support ring vaccination around culling areas where geographic boundaries are unlikely to reduce the adverse effects of perturbation."

Members also believed that the use of an injectable badger vaccine may be acceptable as an exit strategy in areas where culling has been undertaken and disease levels had been reduced to non-endemic levels, or to protect wildlife in an area which is free from bTB.

The union's response also provides its full backing for compulsory access to land in order to cull.

"It is illegal to prevent the culling of cattle which may pose a disease risk to other animals, and the same principle should apply for badgers," said Mr Walters.

"Objections to culling during the English culling trials had an adverse impact on the results of those trials since not all land could be accessed for culling.

"Minimising such disruption by specifically making obstruction illegal will therefore increase the positive benefits of badger culling and help ensure that the anonymity of those who consent to culling on their land is preserved."

TheCattleSite News Desk



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