A new, independent report, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, has concluded that the majority of bovine tuberculosis spread in high-risk areas is a result of badger-to-cattle interaction. Its
findings come at a time when livestock farmers are increasingly desperate to find a solution to rampant TB in their cattle, especially in South West England.
The report suggests that –
• Cattle movements account for 16% of herd infections
• 9% of infections are unexplained (possibly through unrecorded cattle movements)
• 75% are attributed to “local effects” within high-risk areas and makes specific reference to badgers
National Farmers Union (NFU) livestock spokesman and deputy president Meurig Raymond says – “This report … concludes that cattle movements are of “relatively low importance” in the overall picture. The message for (Defra Secretary of State) Hilary Benn is crystal clear. Infected badgers are responsible for the vast majority of TB outbreaks – only by targeting infected badgers will you ever get on top of this pernicious disease, and the sooner you do it, the better.”
Badger Trust spokesman Trevor Lawson, however, has urged thje Government and Mr Benn to consider more research on the role of unrecorded movements, saying: “If recorded cattle movements cause 16% of known TB outbreaks, it must be the case that the millions of unrecorded cattle movements between scattered fields on the same holding are also causing outbreaks.”
Mr Benn, in his speech to the NFU Centenary Conference in London, promised a decision will be made based on science, the impact of proposed measures on the disease, and on practicality and public acceptability.
The view of The Organic Research Centre – Elm Farm is that as organic farmers and researchers we believe that the solution to the on-going tragedy of TB on UK farms is far more holistic and complex than the current “magic bullet” of slaughter. A recent report from Oxford University pointed to raised levels of health and raised immunity in badgers and cattle on ecologically managed land.