Scientific evidence reinforces need for wildlife control to reduce TB, says UFU

Friday, 18 October, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says new peer-reviewed, scientific evidence reinforces the need for a holistic approach which addresses wildlife, alongside cattle, to eradicate bovine TB in Northern Ireland.

The comment follows the publication of analysis by Downs et al, which shows badger culling has had a positive impact on reducing TB outbreaks in cattle in England.

UFU deputy president David Brown said, “The UFU has long held the position that there must be meaningful action to control TB in wildlife in a way that is evidence based and cost effective. The latest scientific evidence has shown that culling badgers has been hugely successful in reducing TB outbreaks among cattle in England, and a similar strategy also worked for the Republic of Ireland. The figures in Downs report reinforce badgers as one of the main carriers of the disease, a worrying reality for farmers here in Northern Ireland and something which needs to be tackled.”

The Road Traffic Accident survey suggests that Mycobacterium bovis, which causes TB, is prevalent in 17% of NI’s badgers. DAERA have stated that badgers play a role in spreading the disease and the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP), considers that there is definite evidence that badgers act as a wildlife reservoir for bTB cattle in NI.

“Due to the high risk of badgers spreading bovine TB, controls need to be put in place in Northern Ireland to protect cattle from the disease. It is not enough to have an approach to address TB in cattle and have no strategy to tackle the infection in wildlife. We are not going to be successful in eradicating bovine TB in Northern Ireland until both cattle and wildlife are addressed. The two go hand-in-hand.

“The TBEP recommended ROI’s model to tackle TB in wildlife in Northern Ireland, a policy that is backed by 15 years of evidence and results. However, wildlife intervention requires a legislative change and we continue to endure the ongoing absence of ministers at Stormont. This new evidence offers the opportunity for us to move forward and introduce a meaningful wildlife approach to our TB strategy, instead, farmers are left frustrated with the success figures in England and an inability to make positive changes in Northern Ireland putting family-run farming businesses at risk,” said Mr Brown.