Bovine TB: The science behind the decisions

argylesock says… A cull of badgers (Meles meles) is about to start in ‘pilot areas’ of Britain. It’s supposed to reduce the problem of tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle (Bos primigenius) but as this article says, ‘The head researcher at the Government’s badger research centre is adamant culling badgers will make bTB worse and that farmers need to start backing the vaccination programme.’ You can see more under my ‘badger’ and ‘tuberculosis’ tags.



FromFarmers Guardian 2009

The head researcher at the Government’s badger research centre is adamant culling badgers will make bTB worse and that farmers need to start backing the vaccination programme. Joanne Pugh went to meet him.


More than three decades ago ecologists started monitoring badgers in an area of farm and parkland, near Stonehouse, Gloucestershire.

The vicinity was considered to be a ‘hotspot’ at a time when the incidence of bTB had been greatly reduced in the UK cattle population and prevalence in wildlife was reasonably unknown – but little did scientists know how important their work at Woodchester Park would become in later years, when the disease in both cattle and badgers exploded.

The tracking and testing of badgers has continued since the mid-1970s, making the park a completely unique scientific resource. The experts working there are regularly asked to provide Defra with information to aid bTB…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Bovine TB: The science behind the decisions

  1. Rachel says:

    I’m still of the opinion that what needs to be done, is to find out WHY badgers contract TB in the first place. Surely that makes more sense. Find out why badgers are more susceptible to TB than they were 30 years ago, and what we can do to help them. Did TB suddenly become more dangerous and infectious? Did it find a new way to spread? Did something lower badgers’ immune systems so they contracted it, like malnutrition, or another disease, whereas previously they did not become ill?

    Vaccinations are the better way, much preferred over culling, but its still not solving the original problem. Even is badgers become vaccinated, the baseline risk will still be out there.

    • argylesock says:

      What do you think of the hypothesis about cattle transport? As in, cattle are being moved around more than they were, taking TB with them. Sometimes giving TB to badgers.

      • Rachel says:

        That is an interesting thought process there…. It is possible I guess, especially as cattle graze in huge areas of open land that badger also use as territories.

        I wrote this post last year – if you can find the original article in Country Living, read it. It is very interesting.

        • argylesock says:

          Your blog post is interesting. I’d like to read the Country Living article but I don’t see a link to it.

          Do you know much about acquired immunity in badgers? You could be right that it’s affected by nutrition. But I haven’t seen evidence. So far, my searches have led me only to the TB vaccination story.

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