Many years ago I sat on what was then the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food’s Advisory Panel on Badgers and Tuberculosis. On several occasions I asked if more research should be carried out on other species known to carry tuberculosis (TB). (And at that time it was nothing like as big a problem as it is now.) But very little research was carried out, and even then the badger was the preferred scapegoat.
I was therefore intrigued to find the following comment on the internet from Dr Dan Forman CBiol, MIBiol, EurProBiol, of the Conservation Ecology Research Team, Department of Pure and Applied Ecology, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Swansea University:
These are the facts!!! Latest data on domestic and companion animals from VLA [Veterinary Laboratories Agency], the BIG question here is why they do not consider the species they have identified [with] high prevalence of TB as problems?
Basic summary of 2009 data thus far:
Deer = 36% positive (includes farmed, wild and park deer)
Cat = 25% positive
Dog = 27% positive
Pig = 19% positive
Alpaca = 56% positive
Sheep = 44% positive
This makes worrying reading, seeing how much more abundant in the countryside are feral and farm cats, and deer, than badgers. Apparently there is a higher occurrence (live cultural positives) of TB in cats and alpaca than in badgers and these occurrences cannot be disputed.
There is a page on the DEFRA website dealing with this – on its archive site, that is - but the period of the data ends 31 March 2011.
Meanwhile I have found another document on the DEFRA website that refers in passing to other mammals that are known to carry TB (p3). The report states: ‘While bTB does occur in wildlife species other than badgers in the UK they are not considered a significant source of infection to cattle or other livestock although this aspect of the epidemic is kept under review.’
Despite this sweeping statement, the same document refers to a project to ‘provide surveillance for TB in mammalian species other than cattle (such as farmed and wild deer, cats, dogs, camelids, goats, sheep and pigs)’ (Item (10), p9).
As ever, I am not disputing that badgers carry bovine TB. They do, but killing them will not make farms free of TB. And very few scientists believe it will. Government policy is politically motivated, not evidence based, and politicians would do well to check the data before driving through policies that have little or no grounding in science (let alone common sense).