Badgers and TB
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Badgers and TB

There are several forms of tuberculosis that affect different animals in varying degrees. The form of TB that affects cattle is called Bovine TB or bTB. This is rather a highly infectious and deadly disease. In case Bovine TB is found in a particular herd in critical measures, often the entire herd needs to be eradicated so as to check its spread to other herds. However, the testing procedures in case of Bovine TB are not implemented in a systematic manner. Often when sold, an infected cow that is undetected moves from one place to another thereby spreading the disease to all the cattle coming under contact. It becomes too late when the problem is identified at the end. Because of the serious consequences associated with bovine TB, it is becoming a matter of serious and widespread concern.

Animals like water voles, cats, deer, foxes, rats, mice and badgers too can get other forms of TB. Some badgers living in the wild are reported with TB more prominently in case of southwest England. Following some research findings, there were rising cries that badgers are spreading bovine TB to cattle. Amidst these circumstances, supported by a group of scientists, farmers in several areas have been forcing the government to intensively execute badger culling as a way of preventing the spread of cattle TB.

In this regard, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food undertook a control experiment advocated by Prof. Krebs. An area of 1,000 km2 was earmarked for this experiment and this area was divided into three segments. In the first segment, all the badgers were totally culled. In the second some were culled and in the third the badgers were left untouched. Governments Independent Scientific Group, which undertook the research, published its report in June 2007. in relating the degree of badgers existing in a particular area and the control achieved over cattle TB, the report no doubt accepts that badgers might be responsible for spreading cattle TB in certain cases. However, badger culling is not a potential and truly beneficial way of combating this disease. In fact, this may even worsen the situation. Therefore, the team advises cattle-based control measures as effective alternatives to control cattle TB.

There is also a strong belief that even under close association, it is highly difficult for badgers to pass on bovine TB to cattle. In addition, some scientists state that before catching TB, the cattle must meet several conditions like exposure to bacteria, climate history, vitamin deficiencies, weak immune system, intensive living conditions, stressful life, and multiple exposures to TB causing bacteria within a short span of time. Therefore, badgers cannot be solely blamed for spreading cattle TB.

Bovine TB causes widespread deaths in badger population in some areas. However, culling badgers under the grounds of spreading cattle TB cannot be supported both scientifically and ethically. This calls for a widespread awareness among people to support the local Badger Groups to intensify their campaign against badger culling.

 

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