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Give a badger a bad name, and it will stick

by Paul Cormacain 07/02/2003

BADGERS have a bad name. They spread that nasty bovine tuberculosis. The answer to this problem is, of course, to kill badgers.

Now a new report has been published across the water, the 'Badger and Bovine TB' report, and this is the result of a good deal of study and research. It was published by the Select Committee of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

There are a number of recommendations in this report and one of these concerns tighter controls on the movement of livestock. Do they not mean tighter control on the movement of badgers? Oh no!

Cows have a bad name. They spread that nasty ovine tuberculosis. The answer to the problem is, of course, to kill cows.

Some of the above remarks reveal the depth of feeling, the lack of knowledge, the hurt and the prejudices of the problems of bovine TB.

It is so easy for a person to take a position on this problem, and in the past it would seem that whatever position was taken, it was not taken because of full information. It was taken because of different reasons, none of which had anything to do with reason.

I confess to taking the view that the badger was being used as a scapegoat, or a scapecow. And I seem to be partly correct, said he smugly.

The Committee's report also recommends there be more effective testing of cattle.

A corollary to this is that the farmers get more financial help. Farmers get help to encourage the return of corncrakes. Why should farmers not also get help to dispose of the problem of bovine tuberculosis?

For me, the main recommendation of the report is that there be no more badger killing, sorry, badger culling sounds better, a more anaesthetized description.

This seems to me to be the bottom line. Badgers do not spread bovine TB, but more research has to be done. For this reason, the committee allows that a certain amount of badger culling be carried out in a particular place, in a scientific manner, with the objective being the acquisition of more knowledge about the whole question of bovine TB.

Would you believe that the Wildlife Trust has welcomed this report? The good folk in this organisation have long believed that badgers are not a significant factor in the spread of bovine TB. And have said so.

If you don't already know it, there is a large organisation which promotes the conservation, welfare and protection of badgers.

This grouping has also welcomed the report, describing it as a breath of fresh air, and claiming that cattle-based measures will deliver the most immediate and effective control of the bovine tuberculosis problem.

Wildlife Trust's Dermot Hughes says there has been no research to prove a link between badgers and bovine TB. That organisation has consistently argued that cattle to cattle transmission is the most likely scource of the spread of the disease.

Isn't it great that clever people like Dermot and myself have ultimately been proved to be right? Said he smugly again.

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