Badger culls spread bovine tuberculosis
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2003:
LONDON–Ben Bradshaw, Parliamentary under secretary for the
British Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on
November 4 halted five years of reactively killing badgers near
bovine tuberculosis outbreaks because culls at 20 locations produced
a consistent 27% rise in the number of bovine TB cases compared to
the numbers detected at outbreak sites where badgers are not culled.
The $40 million trial cost the lives of 8,000 badgers. Known
to become infected by bovine TB, badgers are blamed by farmers for
spreading it, but the data shows that they spread it less if they
are not hunted.
Two parallel tests continue. One, the control experiment,
involves taking no action against badgers. The other is “proactive
culling,” in which the badger population is eradicated as completely
as possible before bovine TB appears.
Beginning in 1998, each test method was applied uniformly
within a 38-square-mile area. The experiment was not due to end
until 2006, but trial steering group leader John Bourne told news
media that the results from reactive culling were so bad that
continuing to do it was no longer appropriate.
“I think [the data] shows very clearly that badgers are
involved in the transmission of TB,” Bourne said. “What it goes on to
show is that localised culling will not control TB in cows, but will
be likely to make it worse. This data should indicate very clearly
that that is counter-productive,” Bourne continued to Mchael
McCarthy, environment editor of The Independent.
Bourne attributed the findings to “perturbation” of the
badger population, as young badgers go farther to mate when their
habitat contains abnormally few potential partners.
Wrote McCarthy, “The study throws into doubt whether culling
badgers can ever be a realistic policy option in the fight against
bovine TB, which is slowly increasing in Britain’s cattle herds.
Many farmers have been strongly in favour of culling, but animal
welfare groups have been opposed.”
Said National Federation of Badger Groups chief executive
Elaine King, “These extraordinary results confirm the warnings that
I and other scientists have been giving for years. Farmers who have
illegally killed badgers have actually made their situation worse.”