bTB, badgers & the cull

Bovine TB, badgers and the cull

The Government badger cull continues to expand every year.  During the years 2013 to 2018, over 67,000 badgers were shot under government licenses, with a target of up to 64,000 to be shot during the 2019 cull.   Berkshire was not licensed as a zone in its own right this year, but culling reaches right up to, if not over, the border with Wiltshire. The cull is therefore a very real threat for Berkshire's badgers.

 

Bovine TB is a major problem for farmers; an outbreak of bTB is devastating and they need a meaningful solution.  Although badgers have been implicated in the spread of bTB amongst cattle, scientific research has consistently shown that culling badgers will not be that meaningful solution.  A mere 5.7% of bTB outbreaks can be attributed directly to badgers according to an 8 year government scientific study, leaving 94.3% transmitted from cattle to cattle.  And there is encouraging evidence from a recent farm trial, which has cleared a herd of bTB purely by dealing with the infection in cattle and their environment, but without culling any badgers. 

 

The Government-commissioned Godfray Report published in 2018, concluded that the focus on badger culling has deflected attention from other measures which would have more impact on reducing bTB. The report stated that ‘it is wrong […] to over-emphasise the role of wildlife and so avoid the need for the industry to take measures that have in the short term negative financial consequences’.

We therefore welcome the recommendations of the Report calling for the Government to redress the balance by increasing the focus on cattle-based measures, including:

Improved cattle testing:

  • Increase early detection rates through use of more sensitive tests and through use of combinations of tests where appropriate.

  • Escalate research for a ‘DIVA’ skin test (a test which can ‘Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals’) and hence allow cattle to be vaccinated. 

 

Supporting the industry in reducing cattle to cattle infection:

  • Enforcing rigorous testing for cattle movements between herds.

  • Making risk-based trading compulsory, backed up by reliable livestock data.

  • Isolating and removing infected animals from the herd more quickly.

  • Isolating high-risk animals, eg. cows pre/post birth.

  • Improving slurry management to minimise risk in infection spread.  

  • Incentivising farmers to improve biosecurity and hygiene. 

The report also notes that ‘Moving from lethal to non-lethal control of the disease in badgers is highly desirable’ with support for a wider badger vaccination initiative.  Berkshire is considered a small county in terms of cattle farming with a relatively low number of bTB outbreaks.   We believe badger vaccination could bring benefit in terms of protecting our badgers from infection by cattle and minimising the already small risk of badgers passing the disease back to cattle.

 

We were disappointed, however, that the report does not rule out continued culling completely despite emphasising its lesser role.    

We join the call from vets, scientists, wildife organisations and much of the population for this cruel and unnecessary cull to be ceased immediately.

What have we done?

  • Attended and organised local protest events such as a march through Maidenhead in 2018.

  • Written letters to MPs.

  • Met with ex-PM Theresa May.

  • Spread awareness through local newspapers and local events.

  • Surveyed to identify vulnerable locations. 

  • Prepared to run Wounded Badger Patrols in Berkshire.

  • Supported Wiltshire with WBPs.

What can you do?

  • Write to your MP and Councillor expressing your objection to the cull:  Find your MP here 

  • Share anti-cull Facebook posts, and talk with friends and family;

  • Sign and share anti-cull petitions;

  • During the cull period, support our beleaguered badgers by signing up for our Wounded Badger Patrols in Berkshire or neighbouring counties.

Our county's badgers are counting on YOU!

Binfield Badger Group is affiliated to the Badger Trust.

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