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    Eye have read...

    "Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) continues to spread among cattle in England and Wales, where badger culling is not used as part of a strategy to prevent cattle becoming infected. In the Republic of Ireland, by contrast, where badger culling has been carried out for many years, figures suggest bTB in cattle is now in steady decline.
    Since 2000, the number of cattle slaughtered in the republic for reasons of bTB has fallen from 40,000 head a year to 18,500 in 2012. Over the same period in England and Wales, the number has risen from 8,000 to more than 38,000 annually.
    The most encouraging aspect of the Irish badger cull is that no significant "perturbation" effect - what happens when diseased badgers disturbed by a cull leave an area and infect cattle elsewhere - has been observed.
    It was evidence of perturbation that halted culling trials in England in the early noughties when badgers were being caught in cages and shot - although there has always been suspicion that this was partly caused by saboteurs who disrupted the trials by releasing trapped badgers from the cages.
    Given the Irish success, the Welsh Assembly's bTB policy of relying entirely on development of an effective vaccine for cattle and/or badgers - even though neither vaccine is close to being ready for practical use - looks increasingly untenable. In England, meanwhile, preparations are underway for a badger cull to begin in June in two of three trial areas in Gloucestershire, Somerset or Dorset.
    The method being proposed to cull badgers in England is very different, however, to the one that has been successful in Ireland.
    There, badgers are caught in a "stop restraint" (a wire hoop that catches a badger by it's neck) after which it is shot. The use of stop restraints in England is prohibited by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Instead it is proposed that English badgers will be shot in the open.
    The Irish call is also "reactive" in that it is carried out in a limited area around any farm which has more than three cattle infected with bTB. In 2012, this led to roughly 7,000 badgers being culled over 5 percent of Ireland's farmland. In England the cull will be "proactive" and seek to reduce bTB infection over broader selected areas. Another key difference is that the Irish cull is financed and organised by the Irish government (within a surprisingly modest budget of 5 million euros a year) whereas English trials will be paid for and run by groups of farmers.
    Despite significant differences between the two culling programmes, the Irish results give new grounds for optimism in England that culling badgers could significantly reduce bTB in Cattle.
    New Bio-Waste Spreader"
    issue 1338

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