Veterinary Associations have given their full support to Defra's announcement that two pilot badger culls will go ahead in 2012 in the next step in the battle against bovine Tuberculosis (TB).
Secretary of State Caroline Spelman has today announced that, following the two recent consultations, two pilot culls will take place after the 2012 Olympics. The Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCTs) have already shown that a proactive badger cull reduces the incidence of infection in cattle.
The aim of the pilots will therefore be to determine the ability of the controlled shooting method to remove the necessary number of badgers within an area (70%) to ensure a similar level of success to the RBCTs in reducing the infection in cattle herds.
Ongoing analysis of the RBCTs reveals that 9 years after the proactive cull started the Confirmed New Incidents (CNIs) in cattle herds in the proactive culling area has reduced by 16% - this is agreed by all scientific experts (meeting of 4th April 2011 - see notes). This success rate is set to increase as time goes on. The figures agreed at the 4th April meeting also reveal a 31.5% reduction in confirmed breakdowns in cattle from one year after the last proactive cull to February 2011.
Importantly, the pilots will also monitor the humaneness of the controlled shooting method to ensure the cull can be carried out humanely.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) have long argued that policies to tackle, and ultimately eradicate, bovine TB will only succeed if the disease is tackled in wildlife as well as stricter measures to control the disease in cattle.
Commenting, Carl Padgett, President of the BVA, said:
"This is a major step on the long road to tackling this devastating disease.
"The BVA and BCVA have always argued that measures to tackle bovine TB must be based on science.
"We know that badger culling does reduce the infection in cattle - this is undisputed science.
"However, the existing science doesn't tell us whether controlled shooting can achieve the level of badger removal necessary to reduce the level of infection in cattle. We therefore welcome the announcement of these pilots to determine the efficacy and humaneness of this method."
Andrew Praill, President of BCVA, added:
"Any intervention in bovine TB takes time to show an effect due to the chronic nature of the disease and we need all the tools in the toolbox at our disposal.
"That is why we are giving our full support to the pilots announced today.
"Bovine TB is resulting in the premature culling of thousands of cattle every year and continues to spread in a number of species of wildlife. Doing nothing is not an option.
"We will continue to support stricter measures in cattle and work with our clients to ensure the highest biosecurity and surveillance on farms."
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