The link between Bovine TB and badgers is both complicated and contentious, with much debate and disagreement over causes, and solutions, to the TB problem. In an effort to address the more complex issues on both sides, the SFT’s Chief Executive, Patrick Holden and Policy Director, Richard Young, recorded a discussion on the issues surrounding Bovine TB and badgers.
The role of badgers in spreading the disease, how cattle become infected, controlling TB, and whether a blanket cull of badgers across the UK will work, are all important elements of the discussion. However, more often than not, the debate has become polarised around the single issue of whether or not culling the badgers will lead to a substantial decrease in TB in cattle.
In a conversation that covers the impact of farming intensification in the last fifty years, the recent explosion of the badger population and whether or not a vaccine will work, they draw on personal experience – Patrick lost a third of his dairy herd to TB false positives – and look at the wide range of factors affecting the spread of Bovine TB.
Debates about badgers and tuberculosis in cattle seem to currently divide into those in favour of culling on one side, and those opposing it on the other. There is a tendency in the mainstream press to separate the issues, removing much of the detail and complexity. In particular, the role that disease plays in pointing out our poor husbandry in animals – animals that are stressed and nutrient deficient have weak immune systems are more susceptible to disease. Furthermore, maintaining optimal population levels encourages positive health in animals and helps them develop resistance to illness – culling has long been one method used to promote this.
The shooting of large numbers of badgers is expected to start any day now, in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset. In discussing their perspectives on an issue that is dividing the country, Patrick and Richard find unexpected common ground. In the end, they agree that what’s really needed is an altogether different approach to the problem.
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