Here in Britain some cattle (Bos primigenius) get bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and we want rid. Wild badgers (Meles meles) can get bTB. Some people think badgers spread the infection (Mycobacterium bovis) to cattle. Others think that we shouldn’t obsess about badgers because the real problem is cattle being moved around the country too much, giving bTB to each other.
You might choose to follow my tags ‘tuberculosis’ and ‘badger’ for other posts on this. I reached the opinion that culling wild badgers would be useless in controlling bTB. In fact that a cull could make the problem worse because badgers have legs. If you clear an area of badgers, other badgers will move in, perhaps bringing bTB with them.
Some of the most senior scientists who’ve been involved in researching the bTB problem, notably John Krebs, concluded that badger culling would be a daft thing to do. They advised the Government to cancel the cull.
Despite this our Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, ordered a ‘pilot cull’. A cull to clear badgers from a few areas. Quite how that’s supposed to be a good idea remains a mystery to me! But it’s due to start soon.
A more sensible response to bTB, in my opinion and others’ opinions, would be to move cattle around less. Another promising idea is to vaccinate wild badgers. Therefore I’m very pleased to see that the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath, has just announced ‘Tough new rules to halt the spread of disease’. His rules are about cattle transport and about improving the badger vaccine. We were promised these improved rules, last winter, and now we can see the detail.
Mr Heath is one of Mr Paterson’s team. I think that right now, he’s talking more sense than his boss.
Mr Heath’s new rules about cattle movements and badger vaccination will start coming into force in October. When I see reports of how that’s going, whether it’s working, I’ll show them to you.