A renewed attack on the government’s policy of culling badgers to combat bovine TB has been launched by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which operates both London Zoo in Regent’s Park and Whipsnade Zoo.
In a statement issued on 23 August, ZSL said: “ZSL recognises the serious impact of bovine tuberculosis (TB) on the livelihoods of UK cattle farmers. Such an important issue deserves the highest standard of evidence-based management.
“ZSL is concerned that the available scientific evidence does not support the UK government’s decision to allow badger culling by licensed farmers in England.”
According to the society, TB transmission is complex and the planned approach to its control risks increasing TB in cattle rather than reducing it. The statement goes on to detail evidence that suggests culling can reduce instances of the disease within the area of the cull, but can trigger increases outside the area. Moreover, where the culls are not stringently policed, the risks are increased.
The statement continued: “Unfortunately, the planned pilot culls are not designed to measure the effects of licensed culling on cattle TB, nor to assess its costs. ZSL therefore concludes that badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from the important business of controlling cattle TB nationwide.
“As a conservation charity, ZSL is engaged in worldwide efforts to foster coexistence of people and wildlife. It calls upon the UK government to show international leadership in wildlife conservation, by seeking sustainable ways for badgers and cattle to coexist.
“ZSL is keen to help Defra to identify such sustainable solutions: our Defra-funded research seeks to minimise contact between badgers and cattle and we are also working to make badger vaccination cost-effective. ZSL recognises the UK government’s wider investment in research on vaccination, biosecurity and cattle-based controls, and believes that implementing a combination of these approaches has the greatest promise for long-term TB control.”