Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Culling controversy

I've chipped in to the online debate on badger culling proposals (see here and here or view the many Post stories that have recently appeared listed here) and copy my contributions in this post: Interesting exchange between vets on bovine TB here It includes this statement from vet Andrew Wilson: "...16 member states of the European Union are recognised as officially free of bovine TB, along with Scotland and a number of regions of Italy. As far as I can find out, not one of these countries or regions had to control TB in wildlife in order to obtain its officially free status...."

Killing badgers is both wrong and unlikely to to be effective in fighting TB.Vaccination is a realistic alternative to culling according to this site . Follow up on the many references given there if you want to know more. It says this for instance, " An injectable badger vaccine was scheduled to be trialled in England throughout 2010, but the coalition scaled back plans in June of that year. Out of the six planned trials only one survived in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where badgers are being trapped and injected with the BCG vaccine over a period of five years (76).

This reduction in funding to alternatives is especially short-sighted as, in November 2010, Defra research showed the outcome of some trials that showed that vaccinating wild badgers over four years resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in the proportion testing positive to the antibody blood test for bTB (72). As natural prevalence of bTB is just 15 per cent then widespread vaccination could be of significant benefit. Especially as there is an annual turnover of badgers of around 30 per cent (badgers have a life span of 3-5 years). Theoretically, the number of infected badgers would decrease each year and new infections would be rare (101).

Additionally, laboratory studies with captive badgers demonstrated that the vaccination of badgers by injection with BCG significantly reduced the progression, severity and excretion of Mycobacterium bovis infection. This seems to strongly support the claim that vaccination alone could reduce bTB infection in badgers by a significant amount (in the same time period of 4-5 years that has been suggested for 'culling'). It would not lead to perturbation and would also be cheaper than the Government's current plans (see The Cost).

As it stands, despite the findings, this Defra study concludes that vaccination should take place alongside badger 'culling', which appears to go starkly against the results of these trials which show that non-lethal approaches will be enough to protect badgers from the disease...”

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