Bovine TB and badger culling: The need for a re-examination of BVA policy

This webinar was presented by Alastair MacMillan and Mark Jones who wanted to put their opinions forward on this topic. Alastair spent the majority of his career at the VLA (now APHA) where he was head of the OIE and Brucellosis Reference Centre. Mark is the Wildlife Policy Manager for the Born Free Foundation.

Alastair began his presentation by defining terms used in epidemiology that are often referred to when discussing the research that has been conducted on bovine TB (bTB). Next Alastair moved on to talk about the ante-mortem diagnostic tests available, intradermal tuberculin test and gamma-interferon assay. In addition, surveillance is carried out in abattoirs at post-mortem inspection in conjunction with histopathology and mycobacterial culture. The control strategy in place for bTB is dependent on the accuracy of the diagnostic test used so Alistair evaluated the diagnostic tests and the factors that can affect the sensitivity of the intradermal test using papers which have been published in this area. From this data Alistair proposed that herds could suffer repeated breakdowns due to undetected infected animals remaining in the herd. Additional problems which could contribute to difficulties in eliminating bTB from the herd include the incubation period and persistence in the environment. There is limited research on the former and evidence for the latter which could lead to continued bTB breakdowns in the herd. Towards the end of Alistair’s presentation, he presented a paper which contained data estimating that badger-to-cattle transmission was 3.7 per cent.

Mark presented statistics relating to bTB from last year, for example, there were 92,236 herd tests, 4,848 new herd incidents and cost the taxpayer £500 million to control the disease in England over the past ten years. Mark provided an outline of the BVA position as of April 2015 and his reasons as to why the BVA’s policy should be reviewed. The questions raised by Mark relate to the definitions of “humane,” “targeted,” “carefully selected areas” and badgers being a “significant contributor” to the persistence of bTB. Currently an academic publication is in preparation for the consensus principles for ethical wildlife control which Mark outlined during his presentation. Mark proposes that wildlife interventions should be based on “good science,” have a “substantial, predictable and measurable benefit,” “humane,” “socially acceptable,” efforts have been made to avoid “unintended consequences” and “adaptive” to reflect new research data. Mark and his colleagues believe that the current badger culling policy fails to meet these criteria. If you would like to watch this webinar, use the following link:

https://www.thewebinarvet.com/webinar/bovine-tb-and-badger-culling-the-need-for-a-re-examination-of-bva-policy/

John Blackwell, BVA Senior Vice President, who provided a webinar titled, “Bovine TB Update” earlier this year can be found using the following link:

https://www.thewebinarvet.com/webinar/bovine-tb-update/

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