Badger culling provides no long lasting benefit for reducing cattle TB
Wednesday 10 February 2010
Badger culling is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of helping control cattle TB in Britain, according to research published today by scientists from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Their findings suggest that the benefits of repeated widespread badger culling, in terms of reducing the incidence of cattle TB, disappear within four years after the culling has ended.
The researchers behind the new study analysed data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), a large-scale field trial that was undertaken between 1998 and 2005 by Defra to assess the effectiveness of badger culling. The results showed that although the incidence of cattle TB was reduced during culling and in the first years after the final cull, these benefits subsequently declined.
The new research also suggests that the savings that farmers and the government would make by reducing TB infections in cattle are two or three times less than the cost of repeated badger culls as undertaken in the trial, so this is not a cost-effective contribution to preventing TB infections in cattle.
“One of the problems associated with culling is that it changes the behaviour of the remaining badgers. With members of their own and neighbouring groups gone, badgers tend to travel further, increasing their contact with cattle both inside and outside the culling area. This undermines the benefits of culling, to such an extent that it is not financially viable,” says Dr Rosie Woodroffe, Senior Research Fellow, ZSL.
The Secretary of State for Environment decided against badger culling to control cattle TB in England in 2008. However, the Welsh Assembly Government now proposes to implement a badger cull using methods very similar to those used in the culling trial, though it faces a legal challenge to this proposal.