THE cull of badgers across parts of Worcestershire and Herefordshire is helping to significantly reduce the amount of TB in cattle, according to the NFU.

It claims new peer-reviewed, scientific evidence proves the effectiveness of badger culling in tackling the disease and demonstrates the success of the Government’s 25-year eradication strategy. 

Oliver Cartwright, NFU spokesman, said: “Worcestershire farmers will be encouraged by the new findings, which show without doubt that the Government’s eradication strategy is working and that badger control is crucial to help eradicate this terrible disease.

 “As we have said all along, the best scientific evidence available and the experience of other countries, shows that badger control, when coupled with other measures such as enhanced biosecurity and strengthened cattle movement controls, can have a significant impact - these new findings speak for themselves. We want to see healthy cattle, healthy wildlife and a healthy countryside.”

Badger culling began on the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire border in January 2000, when an area was chosen as one of 10 trial sites across the UK  to test the effectiveness of the policy. It was expanded in 2005 to cover land around Bosbury, near Ledbury, which extended into Worcestershire.

New research into the effectiveness of the cull in the original zones in Gloucestershire/Herefordshire and Somerset showed a 66 per cent reduction in new TB outbreaks in cattle in Gloucestershire and a 37 per cent reduction in Somerset.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts added: “This peer-reviewed research definitively shows the phenomenal impact culling badgers has on reducing TB levels in cattle. There should now be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this policy works.

Controlling the disease in wildlife is a crucial element to tackling this devastating disease, alongside a range of measures such as enhanced biosecurity and strengthening cattle movement controls. On such a strong scientific basis, it is absolutely vital that the Government’s strategy is continued in order to see reductions in all areas where TB is endemic.

“Last year, nearly 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of this terrible disease and more than 3,600 farms that had previously been clear were affected by it. This study should signal the end of the debate that keeps giving a false equivalence between vaccination and culling as a strategy to reduce infection in cattle.”

However Les Hardy, a member of Herefordshire Badger Group, countered: ”We don’t see the slaughter of thousands of badgers as the ultimate solution to eradicating Bovine TB. There are several other factors in the mix and we feel far more effort should be put into researching vaccines for both cattle and badgers and better bio-security on farms . At the moment badgers are shot without anyone knowing whether or not they have TB and the situation is a disaster.”