Friday 30th September 2016                 Change text size:

New Research Confirms England’s Badger Cull Policy “Less Effective to Control Bovine TB”



Badger vaccine - Peter Trimming via Flickr

Humane Society International/UK’s Professor Alastair Macmillan has welcomed new research from Queen Mary University of London demonstrating that Bovine TB control tactics currently employed by the Welsh and Scottish authorities – which don’t involve badger culling – are leading the way in bTB disease reduction, whilst those employed by England are not. England could eradicate Bovine TB if it adopted Welsh or Scottish tactics.

Professor Macmillan was formerly at DEFRA (2003-2007) where he led the team which provided scientific advice to government and policy makers on animal health and welfare (and particularly on bovine TB), as well as managed the  Bovine TB, Animal Welfare and Endemic Diseases Research Programmes.

Professor Alastair Macmillan, veterinary advisor, Humane Society International/UK, said: “This new paper provides extremely strong evidence of what many experts in veterinary disease control have known for many years – that it is crucial to test cattle as frequently as possible in order to control bovine TB. The Queen Mary researchers have shown without doubt that killing badgers will have little effect, whilst employing the policies of Wales and Scotland, where badgers are not culled, will continue to have a dramatic impact on reducing TB in cattle.

“Frequent cattle testing is particularly important as the sensitivity of currently available diagnostic tests is not very high, meaning that cattle incubating TB are not detected and are allowed to remain in the herd to infect others over the following months. These cattle are by far the most common reason why cattle herds suffer repeated TB breakdowns, not badgers. The government must heed this evidence and stop wasting time and resources on killing badgers to no effect. All efforts must instead be focused on far more frequent cattle testing and strict cattle movement control. How much more research and scientific evidence does this government need before it listens to the rational facts?”

A short video of Prof. Evans explaining his research on Bovine Tuberculosis can be viewed here.

The team at QMUL used publicly available data to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.

Dr Aristides Moustakas, said: “It is clear that the Welsh policy of frequent testing up to every six months and the Scottish policy of risk-based surveillance are producing reductions in the both the incidence and prevalence of TB in cattle.”

Professor Matthew Evans, said: “It is clear that testing cattle frequently is the most effective way of reducing Bovine TB. Farmers and policymakers should not ignore this evidence which is based on the government’s data.”


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