Badgers are responsible for just over half of the tuberculosis in Britain’s cattle, according to new research that should go some way to settling a debate that has raged in recent months.
The research found that badgers only directly infect about 6 per cent of those cattle afflicted by bovine TB. However, because those infected cattle then pass it on to other cows, badgers are ultimately responsible for 52 per cent of total cattle infections, according to scientists at Imperial College London.
The study provides a much clearer and more precise link between badgers and TB in cattle, building on previous studies that identified a link but left much room for debate about the strength of the connection.
“These findings confirm that badgers do play a large role in the spread of bovine TB. These figures should inform the debate, even if they don’t point to a single way forward,” said Professor Christl Donnelly, alluding to the argument over whether culling badgers actually reduces TB.
The new report admitted there was still considerable uncertainty around the precise degree of badgers’ responsibility for TB in cattle. However, its authors expressed confidence that badgers were behind at least 38 per cent of infections and possibly more than 50 per cent.