Leading independent scientists reviewed the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) and agreed that culling badgers under specific conditions can lead to a reduction of TB in cattle. The RBCT and subsequent studies have demonstrated that even if badgers range more widely during culling, potentially spreading the disease (the "perturbation effect"), the negative effects disappear quickly, while the benefits remain for at least six years after culling is stopped.
The pilot areas have been designed to ensure the benefits of culling outweigh any negative effects due to perturbation, including boundaries such as rivers and motorways, to stop badgers spreading TB.
The injectable vaccine is ineffective if badgers already have the disease; vaccination is required every year to ensure newborns are protected; and is extremely expensive because badgers must be trapped to be vaccinated.
Defra is investing £15.5m in vaccines over the next four years. An oral badger vaccine (which could be cheaper and easier to administer) remains some years away, while there remain significant licensing and regulatory barriers before cattle vaccines can be used.
Culling alone won't solve the problem but alongside measures such as testing and removing infected cattle and minimising contact with badgers it will make a meaningful contribution.
Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser and Nigel Gibbens, Chief Veterinary Officer, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1
We've allowed the facts about bovine TB to be buried by the furore surrounding the proposed badger cull and negative reporting on the part of farming bodies has painted a picture of an entire cattle industry brought to its knees by the effects of the disease. But this is misleading. Defra reports on its website that "11.5 per cent of herds were restricted in 2011". They could equally report the positive side, which is that 88.5 per cent of herds were not restricted in 2011. Only a small proportion of the national herd is affected by bovine TB.
The impact on an infected herd is not caused by the disease itself. The heartache is caused by the "test and cull" policy deployed by our government in response to an EU directive which demands eradication of bTB and simultaneously bans the use of cattle vaccine, thereby making it impossible to achieve the goal they set.
But rather than tackle the EU to allow cattle vaccination, ministers have sanctioned a mass badger-shoot to placate a minority of vociferous farmers who seem hellbent on decimating the badger population. The fact that a badger cull spells disaster in PR terms for the entire farming industry must have eluded them all.
G E Purser (A badger-friendly farmer), Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
Have the pious "animal rights" activists, who are threatening a night-time noise campaign against farmers who permit culling on their land, considered the level of animal cruelty that their plans involve to both livestock and wildlife?
Christopher Dawes, London W11
What led up to Britain's wars
Perhaps Julius Marstrand's memory is failing him (letters, 24 September). Before the invasion of Iraq and the intervention in Afghanistan, a brutal and sadistic dictator had invaded a neighbour, used chemical weapons on the Kurds and had many of his own people tortured and executed. And, a mass-murder gang had killed thousands on 9/11. Perhaps he remembers the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie that could easily have resulted in him being murdered for merely imagining a conversation between the Prophet and the Devil and publishing it.William Roberts, Bristol
Miracle of Christ
Kartar Uppal says that while the Koran is God's miracle on Earth, Jesus no longer exists on Earth (letters, 24 September). Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead and is now present to his people through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is on Earth as the spiritual presence at the heart of his church. Thus, for Christians, the greatest miracle is not a book, but a living Christ accessible to humans through prayer and sacrament.
Francis Beswick, Manchester
It's a man thing
Terence Blacker says (21 September), "Society becomes a dirty old man, trying to catch a flash of nipple .... Then, to make us all feel better, we trill with disapproval." I do hope he remembers that he is talking about a half of "society": the male half.
Susan Harr, Hull
Lead is the metal commonly stolen from church roofs and the like (Mary Dejevsky, 21 September). The metal commonly stolen from rail-track signalling cable, telecoms cable and (suicidally) power cable, is copper.
David Rushton Shoreham, Kent
I submitted a TripAdvisor review of the tourist attraction, Big Pit, in South Wales. But I was bemused to get a "Profanity" warning. Then it dawned that my recommendation of "faggots and peas" in the canteen had caused the offence.
Tony Peacock Chippenham, Wiltshire
Mitchell rant reveals real face of Government
The Andrew Mitchell "road-rage rant" is not a trivial matter of a stressed man just "losing his rag", but what many members of the Government really think.
This present unstable economic, legal and social system was created by, is controlled by, and exists for the benefit of the upper middle classes. They regard the rest of us as inconsequential plebs and servants. They created this economic mess and expect the workers to suffer and pay for it.
This system is corrupt, Look at white-collar crime, corporate tax evasion, fiddling of expenses and creative accounting, etc. Notice what they mean by "wealth creators": entrepreneurs, bosses, bankers and financial gamblers, forgetting how the physical labour, long hours of their time, skill and ruined health of workers contributes to wealth creation and makes the upper middle classes rich. It is not a matter of "We're all in this together", but "Them and us".
I hope the Mitchell rage becomes a rage against their power, privilege and snobbery.
B C Simons Gillingham, Kent
Much of the news is dominated by what the Government Chief Whip may have said when the police asked/told him to leave Downing Street by the pedestrian exit. I do not know what he said, or to whom he addressed his comments. Nor do I know what the police said to him, or why if, as reported, he had been accustomed to leave by the vehicle exit.
But I do know that "Cabinet Minister loses temper" is not earth-shattering news, whereas the murder of two police officers on a call about a supposed burglary is a tragedy and a major news story, as is the story about the police officer who hit Ian Tomlinson shortly before his collapse and death; and the attacks on vulnerable women by a Northumbria police officer.
Rita Hale, London N1
I have heard reports that an irate government Chief Whip called a policeman doing his duty a pleb. This, short for plebeian, referred in ancient Rome to those freemen who had not risen to the rank of patrician, but in public schools it is a low-level term of abuse for pupils of the lower school.
I presume it was in one such school that Mr Mitchell learnt the term, but his parents clearly wasted their money since it singularly failed in one of its primary functions, notably to turn out gentlemen with impeccable manners!
Keith B Watts