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Study sparks fresh call for badger cull.

Byline: By ANDREW FORGRAVE

FARMERS have seized on a new scientific study which, they claim, supports their calls for a nationwide cull of badgers.

A report in the Journal of Applied Ecology has revealed that TB-infected badgers and cattle tend to live in the same areas and suffer from the same types of TB.

The Farmers Union of Wales claims this proves badgers were to blame for latest figures showing a 34% rise in TBrelated cattle slaughterings in 2005.

Evan R Thomas, the Union's TB spokesman, called on the government to permit the shooting of badgers.

He said: "TB-infected social groups should be controlled using rifles, which experience has shown is far more efficient and humane than trapping."

The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) accused farm unions of mis-interpreting the report which establishes a link between badgers and cattle but fails to establish culpability.

It's possible that local clusters of infection may have been caused by cattle passing the disease to badgers, rather than the other way round, said NFBG vice chairman Richard Turner.

He said: "If badgers really do give TB to cattle, killing (nearby) badgers should control the disease - but the Krebs Trial has shown this does not happen. "The standard explanation is that badger removal operations disrupt the badger population and spread TB more widely. However, TB experts have now cast doubt on this theory."

Mr Evans questioned the report's conclusion that badger culling and dispersal wasn't necessarily successful.

He said: "The two most successful TB control policies in the last 30 years were gassing and the "clean ring" strategy.

"When these policies were employed, cattle cullings dropped by around a third."

After badger control measures were abandoned, the number of cattle killed grew by some 3,600% between 1986 and 2004, he added.

An average of 841 farms were now under restriction in Wales between January and May, or 5.5% of the total.

Dr Ruth Watkins, an adviser to the Welsh TB Action Group, insisted it was important that control of the disease was not "baulked by economics and politics".

Money was being spent on killing cattle instead of trying to implement a disease control programme, she said.

The Welsh Assembly's new telephone hotline for TB-affected farmers is 0800 528 3300
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2005
Words:377
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