Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease of cattle (Bos primigenius) caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. People can catch it from infected milk. That’s why milk gets pasteurised before we in rich countries buy it. TB’s not good news for the cattle, either. In fact it’s a notifiable disease. Here’s a list of notifiable diseases affecting livestock in Britain.
The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that TB is a serious problem in the British beef and dairy industries.
As well as infecting humans and cattle, M. bovis infects many other mammals including the European badger (Meles meles). Therein lies controversy.
Farmers usually have guns, licenced so that they can kill rabbits and other vermin. It’s not hard to understand why a dairy or beef farmer might feel inclined to shoot badgers. But is that a good idea? It’s not legal under current UK law. The badger is a protected species. So should DEFRA carry out organised badger culls? The Wildlife Trusts oppose badger culling. Controversy reached the High Court. The Court found in favour of a cull but the Badger Trust is appealing against that decision.
What do you think? You might choose to contribute to DEFRA’s call for views.