24th February 2016
Once, entirely by accident, I caught a badger. We’d been having problems with foxes, and the badger had wandered into the live trap up in the orchard, no doubt attracted by the cat food used for bait.
There are more than a million feral cats in Britain, and 7.5 million domestic pets. Alpacas, now increasingly marginalised as an “agricultural” animal and no longer welcome at many rural shows, are far more prone to TB than badgers.
It therefore seems quite illogical to get so worked up about badgers, unless we are also prepared to cull feral cats – which outnumber them by 4 to 1.
The biggest single vector for transmitting TB to cattle is other cattle. Arguments have long raged over whether it is better to keep the cows indoors, away from wildlife and possibly contaminated fields – but then run the alternative risk that they simply spread the disease amongst themselves.
Dairy tankers, driving through the mud as they go from farm to farm, are also capable of spreading TB.
There has been so much publicly-funded science thrown at badger studies over the past 20 years that now there really is little that we don’t know. If you shoot 4 badgers, you will most likely kill 3 healthy ones. That makes it easier for diseased badgers to take over the healthy badger setts. Culling can easily make the disease even worse.
This week’s news that the badger cull is coming to Cornwall will keep me busy on other pages in this newspaper, so it can’t be all bad. But although they might celebrate today, it is actually not good news for our dairy farmers and I doubt it will make any difference to the TB problem. And it is of course even worse news for the badgers.