Don’t make badgers scapegoats for the spread of infection in cattle

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From: David Williams, Chairman, Badger Trust.

In last Saturday’s Country Week, W Watts, of Thurgoland, Sheffield, wrote that the Badger Trust cannot take the fact that some badgers have bovine tuberculosis.

We can, and do, but reject the assertion that killing them will make any meaningful contribution to the eradication of the disease in cattle. A £50m, nine-year scientific study said so in 2007.

While it is not possible yet to test badgers for TB in the field, as both Mr Watts and the Trust wish, it is certainly possible to vaccinate them.

The Trust strongly supports this proposal and would do what it could to help. Vaccination would avoid mixing up badger social groups as happens when killing them, which leaves a vacuum for neighbouring animals to fill.

The disease was reduced from 47,000 cattle infected in 1938, to 16,000 by 1960, reaching the lowest point of 628 in 1979, by careful application of movement restrictions and annual testing without killing badgers.

The number of cattle slaughtered, mostly from the west of England, remained at about 1,000 a year for 20 years from 1970. In the middle of this period, badgers were gassed and shot for 11 years to remove persistent hotspots. It made no difference.

The rot set in after annual testing was abandoned in the mid-1980s and movement restrictions were relaxed.

Furthermore, all testing ceased during the BSE crisis of the early 1990s and again from 2001 during the foot-and-mouth epidemic. All this time, cattle were being traded untested from farm to farm and from county to county. This sorry tale was the result of short-term thinking in pursuit of shortcuts and quick bucks. The industry carried on hoping for the best, yet achieved the worst possible result.

Pre-movement testing was eventually imposed in 2006 (in the teeth of opposition from farming organisations) and a zero-tolerance policy on testing backlogs was introduced. These found more cases, until the peak of 39,973 was reached two years ago – well on the way to the 1938 level.

Since then, there has been a welcome fall of 15 per cent, which the Trust, and, doubtless, the farmers, earnestly hope will continue.

From: Karen Horton, North Frodingham, near Driffield.

I LIVE in a small farming community and I am a member of the Countryside Alliance. I also know the law of the land.

It saddens me that some residents who live within the area do not adhere to the Defra countryside rule that “dogs must never worry livestock” (under the Dogs Protection of Livestock Act 1953).

On two separate occasions, we have suffered our poultry being chased, attacked and killed. In the last incident, I was bitten by an unleashed dog.

The people who allow their dogs to do this have no consideration for others inconvenienced by the actions of their pets.

When you have hatched and raised your own poultry, it is heartbreaking when others can cause such misery.

From: Mike Batty, Bilsdale Close, Romanby, Northallerton.

“I AM a great believer in the daily pinta from the milkman,” says the letter from Shaun Beal of Doncaster. So am I. The difference is that I still have my milk delivered by the milkman. The extra coppers I begrudge him not.

He is delivering my milk at 4am – whatever the weather and is keeping an enterprising man in a job. The bottles are sterilised and re-used and they are made of a natural product, unlike the plastic bottles which are often seen blowing around the streets, having been blown off the recycling bins. Sadly, it is short-term thinking which has seen the demise of many of the things which we valued.It is not until they have gone that people complain at their loss.