Bovine Tuberculosis is a serious disease in British cattle costing over £100 million annually and badgers are known to transmit the bacteria. So logically removing the badgers should help combat the disease. This is the idea behind the Randomised Badger Culling Trial carried out for 5 years starting in 1998. It is also behind the proposed introduction of culls in parts of Wales.
But the badger is a charismatic character. A sweet bumbling animal that the general public don’t want to see trapped and killed. Which may be part of the reason there has been so much opposition to the proposal.
Now a recent study suggests that there are other reasons to avoid the cull. For one thing, although the original trial may have showed a moderate reduction in the incidence of TB within the target areas, there was actually an increase in surrounding areas presumably due to the movement of badgers misplaced by the culling.
The study monitored the incidence of TB in the 10 trial areas and 10 matched, un-culled areas for the 4 years after culling was ceased. The study showed that there was a continued decrease in TB incidence following the culling, but this unsurprisingly decreased over time until there was no noticeably reduction after 4 years. It was concluded that to effectively implement a method to combat the spread of TB would require large scale, continued culling of badgers. This would be very costly. In fact the study showed that, whilst large scale culling can decrease the incidence of TB, it is not cost effective.
So is the proposed badger culls just a way to make helpless farmers feel like they are actually doing something? Or is the cost worth it?