Suggestions the pilot badger cull might be behind a decrease in tuberculosis (TB) in cattle are based on “spurious” data, it has been claimed.
Some, including National Farmers’ Union president Meurig Raymond, have said there has been a big fall in the two badger culling pilot areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire.
TB incidence on farms has decreased from 34% to 11% compared with two years ago in the Somerset pilot area, Mr Raymond told the NFU annual conference last month.
And he said that in Gloucestershire, too, vets were reporting a reduction, with one NFU member’s farm being TB-free for the first time in 11 years. Gloucestershire vet Roger Blowey has reportedly said he could think of no other reason other than the “culling of infected badgers as to why there should be such a decrease in the level of bovine TB in the county”.
However, the Born Free Foundation claims the pilot badger culls, carried out across a small percentage of the two counties’ land area, were not responsible for the improvements.
The wildlife charity’s campaigners have pointed to Defra’s chief vet saying it was too early to see any significant impact linking the TB fall to the pilot badger culls.
Mark Jones, programmes manager at the foundation, said the claims linking the fall in TB to the pilot culls were based on “anecdotal, uncontrolled and incomplete data”.
He said: “It is sad to see members of my profession drawing such flawed and dangerous conclusions from such spurious data.
“The coalition Government promised a ‘science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine TB’. The science has shown time and again that badger culling is ineffective and inhumane.”
A Defra spokesman said: “England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and over the last two decades, the number of cattle slaughtered has increased tenfold.
“That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to deal with the disease, which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the edge area and culling badgers where TB is rife.
“This approach…..in cattle and wildlife has worked in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.”