Do Badgers spread
Bovine tuberculosis to Cattle?
Tuesday 16th April 2013
The new scientific evidence from
It wasn’t us
Sadly, given the plans by the UK Government to cull many thousands of badgers in
further trials to determine whether removing badgers lessens the occurrence of
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, it appears the epidemiology of this disease
is still not well understood.
Badgers are regarded as a maintenance host and a reservoir of the disease that
costs UK cattle farmers millions of Pounds each year. Not only because infected
cattle need to be destroyed, but also because they need to be regularly tested
and farms need to implement biosecurity measures to keep badgers away from
cattle at night. Get rid of the badgers, say the farmers, and bTB has a chance
of being eradicated.
This is despite overwhelming scientific evidence that badger culls are not
likely to be effective and could even exacerbate the problem. Undaunted, the
Government will proceed in England though Wales, having evaluated the same
available information, will not cull badgers.
Recently, a paper was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens that showed how
little is yet understood about bTB in cattle and badgers. Using advanced
molecular genetic techniques, the researchers showed that:
Fine-scale genetic analyses reveal gaps in the current understanding of bTB
Whole genome sequencing is sensitive enough to differentiate bTB strains
involved in outbreaks on neighbouring farms;
Badgers in outbreak areas can have identical as well as very different genetic bTB strains to those among infected cattle;
Strain persistence among cattle sampled years apart raises the possibility of
latent infections, environmental persistence and inter-herd transmission of bTB.
This data calls for considerably more research to be conducted before any badger
culling can be contemplated. You can download our (LionAid) analysis of the research by
clicking the image below.
The LionAid analysis has been downloaded times.
There are also some further aspects of bTB to consider:
Other research has shown that deer also harbour bTB, and it is important to
remember that there are about 1.5 million deer in the UK versus about 300,000
badgers. While deer have been implicated in bTB transmission to cattle in the
USA and France, somehow this is not considered relevant in the UK.
Mycobacterium is a diverse genus of bacteria. Some species cause tuberculosis in
humans, birds, seals, voles, goats, deer, pigs, cattle. One species causes
leprosy. But most species are free-living in soil and water.
Given this ancestry, it is not surprising that Mycobacterium bovis can also
survive for long periods outside the host. Some studies indicate such
environmental persistence can be on the order of 14 months under the right
conditions, but more dedicated studies are needed. Mycobacterium avium that
causes tuberculosis among birds has been shown to survive for 47 months in bird
droppings. Such long environmental persistence can account for repeated
infections among cattle even in the absence of badgers.
It is entirely possible that bTB outbreaks can be caused by inter-herd
transmission without involvement of alternative hosts like badgers. Cattle are
regularly moved across the UK, and either not be adequately tested before such
moves, or test negative while they might be harbouring the disease.
In short, killing badgers is not the answer and it is surprising that the move
is so strongly being supported by Government while the epidemiology of the
disease is not nearly fully understood.
B-R-A-V-E wishes to acknowledge the fine work undertaken by
LionAid. Their help and
recent advice which has resulted in the building of this specific
B-R-A-V-E page is greatly acknowledged and appreciated.
It would seem that the brick wall we are coming up against is mainly the Government. Therefore we must surely campaign wholeheartedly, with every tool
that we have in our box!
Please forget that we have done all this before and got virtually
nowhere. This scientific evidence seems to have been ignored and just one of
us backing away now, could be the difference between life or death for our
badgers. We cannot leave any stone unturned - it needs every single one of us
(and our friends, colleagues, relatives etc) to do the same.
All other events
and campaigns will follow and continue; it really could be the breakthrough we
need to kick-start it all with confidence (I thought this when I first heard
about the new evidence but it fell on deaf ears!). It is vital that we all pull together now - in one direction - with
the Government being our main target.
Please bear in
mind too, that George is a
former (much emphasis on the word 'former') Conservative Party agent and therefore knows how the 'Political World' ticks.
You can download a printable copy of LionAid's scientific
LionAid's New Evidence Report has been downloaded times.
Please don't hesitate to
email should you have any queries.
Your Badger Friends are Here to Help.