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Deer`major threat for TB in cattle' Infection rates found up to 16%.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE

TENS of thousands of deer in Britain are infected by bovine TB and pose a major threat to cattle, it has been claimed.

Campaigners say government scientists should do more to examine the TB threat from deer rather than focusing on badgers.

The National Federation of Badger Groups published a report this week which claimed that five of Britains' six deer species are affected by b TB with infection rates of between 1% and 15%.

Its research coincides with a government study which found fallow deer infection rates could be as high as 16. 22% and concluded: ``It seems prudent to consider deer as a potential, although probably localised, source of infection for cattle. ''

There are between 1. 25 and 2. 6m wild deer in Britain, compared with around 300, 000 badgers, and they frequently share the same pasture, feed and water troughs as cattle.

NFBG chief executive Dr Elaine King said the government had known for more than 10 years that deer were susceptible to b TB, but had only just begun to examine the problem.

She said: ``It has spent just pounds 750, 000 on the latest study, but continues to spend much of its annual pounds 20m b TB budget on research involving badgers. ''

She said suspected b TB in deer could be under-reported but current legislation did not give Defra compulsory powers to test deer.

n A UK government decision about culling badgers must await the outcome of further trials, an all-party committee of MPs said this week.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee looked at the potential for vaccinating cattle and badgers against TB.

Its report concluded: ``The political reality is that culling badgers could only ever be a limited part of a policy to deal with the problem.

``But we do not believe that any useful decision can be made until the results of the Irish Four Areas Study and more importantly the Randomised Badger Culling Trial have been properly assessed. ''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2004
Words:332
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