There is no single answer to bTB

Re: page 7 ‘Farmers face crisis over action on badger culls’ (West Sussex Gazette Oct 17):

It seems ‘The Team Badger’ will do anything to grab headlines. Organic shoppers asked about bovine TB were almost bound to say that they would boycott produce from farms in the west country where pilot badger control measures will take place.

And why urge consumers to boycott milk or beef from farmers whose businesses have been on the brink of collapse because of bTB?

Surely these charities realise that bTB is a serious animal welfare issue and a long term epidemic that is out of control?

These affected cattle farmers deserve consumer support as bTB is the biggest problem facing the cattle sector.

The NFU has been talking to the major retailers to achieve recognition that this is a highly emotive issue but it is a matter of government policy that should not affect sourcing policies.

Sadly there is no single answer to bTB – it must be tackled by a range of measures as we do not have a licensed cattle vaccine.

Even in trials the cattle vaccine is only 60% effective – it’s not the magic bullet we’d like.

Badger vaccination doesn’t work in diseased badgers and cannot cure a badger of bTB.

Potentially, if we do nothing about this disease over the next decade it could have huge knock on effect on both our beautiful countryside, much of which depends on grazing cattle, and on food security.

Where there is a high and persistent level of bTB, west country farmers find themselves the focus of the Government’s bTB disease control programme. That is because follow up work on the Randomised Badger Control Trials demonstrate that badger control can reduce disease in cattle by 30%, with lasting benefits.

Regrettably badger control is necessary in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset as ever-increasing cattle controls cannot stop the spiral of infection and re-infection.

No other country in the world has got on top of bTB without controlling it in wildlife. This is not about eradicating badgers, it is about disease control in a limited area.

Control will be undertaken by trained professionals and around 1,000 badgers will be taken from each of the two pilot areas this year, fewer in subsequent years. To put that in context, around 50,000 badgers are killed on the roads annually.

Isobel Bretherton

NFU

South East