Opinion Former Article

RSPCA calls for a united front to tackle TB in cattle

News that £20 million is to be invested into developing a bovine TB (bTB) vaccine has been warmly welcomed by the RSPCA, following today's announcement that the Government has rejected a mass cull of badgers.

The RSPCA is now urging a united front to reduce the spread of bovine TB in the UK.

"We share the farming industry's desire to combat bovine TB," says Dr Julia Wrathall, head of RSPCA farm animal science. "But - as the Minister stated today - there is no quick and easy solution to the complex problem of TB in cattle.

"A badger cull would have been a colossal and dreadful mistake - for farmers, cattle and badgers. The Government is to be congratulated for basing this decision firmly on robust scientific evidence and public opinion."

The most authoritative research1 ever undertaken into the impact of a badger cull on bTB in cattle concluded that "badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain".

The 10-year study found that culling badgers carries the risk of increasing the spread of the disease. The Society fully supports the view of Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, that this is a risk which should not be taken.

"The RSPCA strongly welcomes further investment in a vaccination programme for cattle and badgers and the Minister's proposal to set up a bTB partnership," adds Dr Rob Atkinson, head of RSPCA wildlife science.

"We have already been looking at a range of ways that we can contribute. For example, work at our wildlife centres could help by providing more knowledge of badger behaviour to study the best methods to immunise wildlife."

"The RSPCA's opposition to a badger cull has always been based on solid science, not sentiment. The Society cares as much about cattle welfare as badgers, so we are keen to work with farmers and the Government to find positive solutions to the challenge of bTB in cattle."


Notes to editors

1. The research - by the Independent Scientific Group on TB in cattle (ISG) took nearly ten years, cost the lives of over 11,000 badgers and cost taxpayers £34 million.
2. It is not possible to cull only diseased badgers because there is no reliable test to identify them. The evidence is that most badgers are not infected with TB - this means that most badgers killed in a widespread cull are likely to be disease-free.
3. The general public doesn't support a cull. Defra's public consultation prompted a record 47,472 responses - 95% of which opposed a cull.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 0870 0555500 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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