Badger cull not economical

A cull of badgers is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of controlling cattle tuberculosis, scientific advisors have told the government.

Farming leaders claim the spread of cattle TB by badgers is destroying the industry and that culling would control it.

But independent government advisers said that, while badger culling did reduce cattle TB, it would have to be so extensive it would be uneconomical.

Meanwhile, conservationists claim the movement of cattle, not badgers, spreads disease.

The advice comes as the government considers whether to introduce a cull.

It set up the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) to examine the links between TB in cattle and the spread of badgers in the countryside.

ISG chairman Professor John Bourne told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "One has to recognise that what we are dealing with is primarily a disease of cattle, although badgers in hot spot areas do make a significant contribution."

The dilemma for farmers and ministers is that there was no sustainable way of treating the badger issue, he said.

"If they do embark on a badger culling policy, it is quite clear that will have no impact - direct impact or meaningful impact - on controlling the disease in cattle, and it could make it worse."

Instead, he proposed a method of cattle control which would reduce the incidents and prevent its geographical spread.

But National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall said he would seek urgent meetings with ministers and officials to devise a culling strategy that would make a worthwhile difference to the disease situation.

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