Vaccine is the answer, not gas
REGARDING your article on December 25, headlined "Pressure grows to use gas for cull", I am astonished that anyone suggests gassing badgers as a final solution to bovine TB.
All badger culls have failed, partly because some landowners have refused permission, partly because of well-organised disruption by protesters, but mainly because the methods used are unworkable.
Badger setts can extend a quarter of a mile underground, with hundreds of chambers and dozens of exits.
The survivors of disturbed communities, both healthy and infected animals, simply scatter elsewhere.
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The Labour Government's chief scientific adviser, Lord Krebs, who oversaw ten years of randomised culling, concluded it was pointless.
If 70 per cent of badgers within an area are killed (the original target of recent culls) then the incidence of bovine TB drops by, at most, 16 per cent, thus still leaving the majority prone to further infection or to carry on transmitting the disease.
Modern farming methods exacerbate the problem. The tendency to breed selectively and combine ever larger herds of heavy beef strains has genetically reduced resistance to disease.
The answer is research into effective cattle and badger vaccines, ultimately costing far less than paid in compensation; tighter biosecurity surrounding farms; and derogation from EU rules that forbid cattle vaccination.
While environmental conditions and breeds of cattle vary, we can learn from the experience of other EU member states, where control and surveillance systems have either eradicated or reduced bovine TB to manageable levels.
I appreciate farmers are desperate to overcome a seemingly intractable problem but, without sounding unduly cynical, they should beware of accepting plausible arguments for gassing badgers from companies with vested financial interests.