Badger Culls Attempt to Halt the Spread of Bovine Tuberculosis

A few weeks ago, two pilot tests were conducted in England to determine whether badger culls would be effective in curbing the rapid spread of bovine tuberculosis among cows and other farm animals. The culls will be carried out over a six-week period, during which sharpshooters will kill 70 percent of the badger populations in Somerset and Gloucestershire. The goal is to reduce the spread of TB in cows while maintaining badger populations.

Badgers are a common animal both in the UK and throughout western Europe. It is a known carrier of bovine tuberculosis, or bovine TB. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that most commonly affects the lungs. In humans, TB is by something as simple as a cough by an infected person. In the case of bovine TB, it can be spread through anything from contact with an infected animal, to contact with the excrement of an infected animal. In all cases, tuberculosis can be fatal. Cows with TB must be culled in order to prevent the spread of TB to the rest of the herd and consequently, to other herds.

Currently, there is not workable vaccine against bovine TB. Vaccines for both cows and badgers are in the works, but they are years from being completed. In the meantime, it is becoming imperative to halt or at least slow the rapid spread of TB.

There are some who protest the morality and safety of the badger culls. Stray shots aimed at fleeing badgers could pose a threat to people and other animals. And there are many who do not see the sense in killing so many animals for seemingly no reason other than the possibility that they are infected.

The spread of bovine TB affects more than just the farmers and the meat and dairy industries of the UK. Should infected products or animals be exported to other countries, it would not be long before bovine TB was their problem too. It is a disease that crosses the species barrier with ease, and not only results in the loss of animal and human lives, but in the loss of livelihood and high expenditure of taxpayer money as attempts are made to combat the spread. Regardless of the different stances on the morality of the badger culls, the main goal is to contain the threat of bovine TB and find the most effective ways to do this.

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