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Stackyard News Feb 07

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Badger study reveals TB upsurge

Research work in Gloucestershire which has revealed a dramatic increase in the incidence of TB in badger populations has provided the clearest explanation yet for a parallel increase of TB in the cattle population, says the NFU.


A long-term study* of a stable and undisturbed high-density badger population at Woodchester Park near Stroud, showed that the mean incidence of TB in around 25 social groups of badgers increased from one per cent in 1994 to 15 per cent in 2004.

It also indicates that badgers are more likely to become infective if the social group from which they come is declining in size, and that a stable social structure tends to reduce the likelihood of disease spreading within the badger population.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said the findings provided striking confirmation, first, that the incidence of TB in the badger population has increased sharply and, second, that any badger culling strategy would need to be intensive and thorough if it was to have maximum impact on the level of disease.

“It would be entirely wrong to conclude from this study that a do-nothing strategy is the way forward”, he said.

“We have been doing that for the past ten years and the result has been a steep increase in TB in both cattle and badgers. To suggest that more of the same is the answer to all of our problems is sheer madness.

“The lesson from this survey is that, for the sake of farming, the countryside and wildlife, we must stop this frightening increase in TB infection in badgers, and the only way of doing that is through a co-ordinated cull of badgers starting in the worst TB hotspot areas.”


1. *Social organisation and movement influence the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in an undisturbed high-density badger population. J. Vicente et al. Journal of Animal Ecology 2007

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