Defra hits back at badger cull claims

Defra has refuted claims made by several newspapers that the badger cull is primarily to protect human health.

A report in The Sunday Times at the weekend made it apparent to consumers that meat from cows testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) was being used in food, in accordance with FSA guidelines (insert link to yesterday’s story on bTB). The report also said: “Defra’s reassurances contrast with recent warnings by its experts, who say rising levels of bTB in cattle are becoming a serious threat to human health.”

It went on to say that such health claims have been used to justify the culling of thousands of badgers. However, Defra said in a statement that the pilot badger cull is to reduce bTB in cattle “due to the disease’s huge impact on the farming industry, rural communities and tax payers”.

It said: “Last year 28,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of bovine TB, and fighting the disease cost the taxpayer £100m. If the disease is not brought under control by tackling TB in cattle and wildlife, costs to the tax payer over the next 10 years could top £1bn.”

Defra added: “While humans can contract TB, it is currently quite rare and those who have close contact with infected animals or who drink unpasteurised milk are most at risk. Just this week, the European Food Safety Authority published a scientific opinion which stated that there is no evidence of meat-borne transmission of bovine TB in the EU.”


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