All in the name of preventing the spread of Turberculosis (TB) to our farmed cattle, a 6-week trial cull of badgers commenced in the counties of Gloucester and Somerset in August. The cull has been carried out regardless of the extreme divide of opinion on the issue. The population that makes up our agricultural community are pro the cull whereas animal activists are completely against the trial, claiming a lack of evidence and animal cruelty.
The badgers in these counties are being shot at a discerning rate of 70 a day. Whilst this is undeniably a fast way to potentially conquer the problem, there is a lot of concern surrounding the welfare of these badgers as the shootings can leave badgers dying in an inhumane way.
The controversy surrounding this issue has been around for many years. Whilst the situation can be viewed from both sides, it is important to consider the hard facts.
Mycobacterium bovis (TB) is infectious and before the routine pasteurisation of milk, was commonly passed to humans leading to fatal consequences. This is thankfully now extremely rare but the disease persists in cattle and wildlife worldwide. Here in the UK, it is thought that cows contract this disease from the British wildlife (and not exclusively the badger). It seems the nation has become obsessed with the potential link between our stripy nocturnal friends and our bovine ones, forgetting that deer, squirrels and rats can all also be infected by TB. What is more, it seems that the way in which badgers spread TB to cattle has yet to be properly understood.
Regardless of your opinion or where the disease has spread from, TB has an undeniably devastating impact on cows and their farmers, with an approximate 28,000 cattle slaughtered in 2012 for testing positive to the disease.
The Badger Trust UK believe that rather than pouring millions of the taxpayer’s money into killing badgers, a more effective use of the money would be better spent on developing the vaccine (even though this is has the potential to cost a lot more money).
It remains to be seen whether the cull will be effective in preventing the spread of TB. After the 6 weeks, many factors will be assessed to see if the cull is appropriate on a national scale. It can only be hoped that the situation is looked at objectively as it cannot be denied that there needs to be a solution to the ongoing problem in our cattle. However, this is surely a shame if that solution leads to an iconic creature of the British countryside being wiped out forever.