What should be the main weapon in the fight against bTB in cattle?
In an effort to curb the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, a trial badger cull was carried out last autumn in two pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire. bTB is a serious problem for the dairy farming industry and has cost the taxpayer in England £500m to control the disease in the last 10 years.
BBC News has a very useful Q and A about bTB the badger cull that provides detailed background information.
Defra said that culling badgers would significantly reduce the spread of bTB in cattle. This was based on earlier scientific trials (the Randomised Badger Culling Trial) which suggested that systematic culling of badgers over four years (with a further five years follow-up) could reduce the incidence of bTB in cattle by 12-16 per cent.
The plans were met with resistance from opponents such as the Badger Trust and high profile fugures such as Queen guitarist Brian May. They claimed that other measures such as vaccination and tighter controls over cattle movements would be more effective than culling.
In an open letter to The Observer a group of scientists expressed concern that culling badgers might increase the spread of bTB in cattle though they also "recognise the importance of eradicating bovine TB and agree that this will require tackling the disease in badgers".
The cull itself failed to meet its targets and an independent panel has questioned the humaneness of the methods employed. However, many rural commentators (such as tbfreeEngland), farmers, Defra and farming unions are convinced that badger culling is still the most effective means of combatting bTB and must be continued in 2014.
But what do you believe should be the next most effective step in combating this costly disease?
Cast your vote or leave us a comment below.