In my opinion: Truth and falsehood in the debate about badgers and TB
We are lucky that we enjoy a free press, but that means we get letters of truth and untruth published in our newspapers. Bill Harper's letter states the facts about badgers spreading TB to cattle and points out that countries that overcame the problem, firstly addressed the problem in the wildlife.
Adrian Coward's letter does not stick to facts. He says that the test on cattle to seek reactions is not reliable. He later states that the disease was "virtually wiped out by stringent cattle testing with no wildlife culled," 60 years ago.
The same test is used today and although it is not 100% reliable, veterinary surgeons will tell you it throws up more false positives than negatives. His 60 years should read 50 years. Back then if there was an outbreak of cattle TB the local badger sett was taken out. The Ministry of Agriculture used to send out a publication called 'Mentor' to farmers and a typical statement would read 'five cattle with TB at St Keverne, six badgers killed with the disease."
Mr Coward says "the subsequent relaxation of cattle testing and the continued used of a test regime that is not effective have resulted in the present situation." Apart from a period of disruption caused by a foot and mouth outbreak, the testing has been more intense than ever before. Cattle on an outbreak farm are tested every 60 days. this month I took a heifer to a schools education day at the Royal Cornwall Showground. First she had a TB test, cost about £60. When she left home her passport was stamped and Defra were notified, the show did the same on her arrival and when she left the site and we notified the authorities that she had arrived home.
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A cattle vaccine is 10 years away and the badger one is claimed to be 80% effective. How can Mr Coward say that the vaccine programme in this area is working? They have only been doing it for a few years, and you have to kill a badger to see if it is infected. Between my home and the sea is a mile-long blackthorn-covered alley, how could you catch the animals there?
The setts are overcrowded, badgers do tremendous damage to pastures, crops and hedgebanks and seem to have wiped out the hedgehog population.
Sadly several people have died recently through carbon monoxide poisoning. I say use this gas to take out the infected setts. Dig up the setts to make sure the effectiveness of the operation and that will stop others going in and picking up the disease. but it will not work in blackthorn valley.