Letter: Badgers and TB

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The Independent Online
Sir: Again, outbreaks of bovine TB are, understandably, causing concern to farmers. ("Badgers get blame for epidemic", 1 December)

Human TB has been largely conquered in Britain by better housing and nutrition. The Richards report (1972) by the Ministry of Agriculture on the outbreak of bovine TB in West Cornwall suggested that bad husbandry and management of cattle herds was a major cause.

Then the bacillus was found in a badger carcass and the efforts of the ministry and the National Farmers Union were concentrated on the culling of badgers and other possible causes were largely ignored.

Dairy cattle are no longer fed on herb-rich grassland but on grass monocultures, and their diet is supplemented by manufactured protein-rich foods to boost milk yield. They are confined for long periods, in close proximity, in milking sheds and in winter housing. This must lead to the spread of the disease between individuals.

Selection of breeding stock takes account, almost exclusively, of milk yield. Natural immunity to disease is disregarded.

Twenty-five years of culling programmes has cost many millions of pounds and destroyed more than 25,000 badgers, and the disease is still rife.

It is to be hoped that the Krebs report, now with the minister, will soon be released and that, for the sake of farmers and the dairy industry, it will deal with the scientific evidence rather than political considerations.