An independent scientific assessment has found badger culling to be ineffective and failing of humaneness tests. Commissioned by the Government, it was found that the number of badgers killed was well below the target estimated to reduce the spread of TB in cattle.
1,771 animals were culled during the 6-week pilot scheme across Somerset and Gloucestershire with a potential 18% taking longer than 5 minutes to die – well above the 5% limit set by the expert panel. This assessment follows hot on the heels of the revision of number of herds infected by bovine TB due to an IT error, meaning the number of infected herds fell by 3.4% and a 13% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered between September 2012 and September 2013. However, There is no doubt this infection is a serious concern for the country and preventing badger to cattle transmission is one way to reduce the issue, but it important to do so in a manner which is both humane and effective.
The head of the British Veterinary Association stated, "It is important to remember that these culls were pilots precisely because the Government needed to test the humaneness, safety and efficacy of controlled shooting as a method of culling badgers.” The results of this assessment, when published, will enable the government and experts to determine the best course of action to limit bovine TB following the controversial trials. Based on the released figures we can hope that options other than culling will be re-examined during the discussions, including longer-term ways of protecting both cattle and badgers from the disease.
Thirteen counties have adopted a badger vaccination program, another approach designed to reduce the number of badger to cattle TB transmissions by protecting the badgers from contracting the disease. Vetark’s director, Peter Scott, was involved in the first stage of the Hampshire and Isle of White Wildlife trust vaccinations over October last year to tackle the four highest risk reserves. The remaining reserves will be vaccinated over Spring 2014, although more funds are needed to complete the work; it is expected to last 5 years (the average badger lifespan) to ensure the area's badger population is immune.