It is unfortunate that Simon Hart MP has further clouded the already complex bovine TB debate with a proposal that flies in the face of current evidence (Journal, November 2).
Whilst his suggestion to cull only infected badgers might sound a convenient solution, it is wholly undermined by the complex reality of this now endemic disease. It is not possible to identify ‘sick setts’ in the field, nor to immediately diagnose individual infected badgers- which can only be done with the same time-consuming tests already applied to cattle. Therefore, immediately selecting only diseased animals is impossible.
Furthermore, modelling has suggested that removal of part of the population in this manner could cause perturbation in the same way as other culling approaches. Perturbation occurs when culling disrupts badger families’ stable structures and causes potentially infected animals to move around the landscape more, spreading the disease further.
It is for these reasons that the ‘trap-test-cull’ approach has not been given serious consideration to date. What is required is a forward-thinking solution that stands a real chance of reducing the prevalence and spread of TB in both cattle and badgers in the longer term. With an injectable vaccine already available, concentrating efforts this approach has to be the best solution for all involved.
Dr Lizzie Wilberforce
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales