Science

Badgers offered new hope through TB vaccination

Source: Andy Ballard (via NeedPix)

By Mili Jayadeep

Source: Andy Ballard (via NeedPix)

Bovine tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is an infectious disease affecting cattle. This heavily harmed the farming industry as cattle infected by TB had to be consequently culled, reducing business for the beef and dairy industries. It was believed to be spread by infected badgers hence culling practices were used to control the infection spread. 

 

Recent research has revealed that the infection is spread from cow-to-cow rather than from badgers. This means that culling is not an effective method of preventing the infection spread. 

 

Animal welfare supporters would argue that methods of culling are merciless, which have been practiced in about 40 regions in the UK. The methods of culling are usually cruel, such as controlled shooting, which is discredited by the British Veterinary Association due to its inhumanity to animals. 

 

Today, alternate methods of preventing the infection have finally received government support. A new policy of trialing vaccines on cattle will take place over the next couple of years. Previously, vaccinating cattle was not an option as it would hinder the results of the diagnostic test on cattle for TB. The Animal and Plant Health Agency have made advances on a test that wouldn’t be affected by the vaccine. This could mean that the cruel methods of culling could be replaced by the ethical practice of vaccination, if these methods are successful. 

 

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss has said: “Whilst there is no single way to combat this damaging and complex disease, cattle vaccination will be a new tool for our multi-pronged approach to tackle it,”

 

Evidence and research shows that no valid scientific conclusions can be drawn from the badger culling pilot trials, which shows that badger culling does little to prevent the spread of infection. The way forward is learning from the results of these trials and developing better diagnostic techniques. 

 

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