Dear Editor – No one can deny that bTB can have catastrophic effects on a farming family and their business.

However, my understanding from reviewing the research is that culling badgers is unlikely to eradicate bTB. At best it may reduce the number of herd breakdowns within the cull area. It has never been claimed by any of the research projects that it will eradicate bTB.

As farmers pin all their hopes on culling as a solution, the ISG report which our Government cites as having produced the scientific evidence to support a cull states ‘On the basis of our careful review of all currently available evidence, we conclude that badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively to the control of cattle TB in Britain’. I wonder how many of us have actually understand the risks associated with a cull, risks that have been recently highlighted by one of the UK Governments own scientists, Dr Robbie McDonald of FERA in The Farmers Guardian (September 6th), who suggested that vaccination should be the favoured option. Unless a cull can achieve a kill of more than 70-80% (results from the RBCT), it is not likely to reduce bTB but increase its spread. Likewise in the first year even with effective culling, herd breakdowns are likely to increase initially as badgers move from disrupted setts. This perturbation effect lasts longer if cull effectiveness falls (which it invariably does as numbers are reduced).

Culling is also known to actually increase bTB in badgers and thereby increasing the chances of spreading infection. Culling will have to continue for several years to maintain any benefit. At best hopes are for a 20-30% reduction in herd breakdowns, and modelling commissioned by the Welsh Assembly suggests a 10% reduction in herd breakdowns is more likely. Economically this does not make sense. The costs of a cull are high and the costs of continued bTB outbreaks will reduce to cover this.

The biggest tragedy is that the disease was not stopped in its tracks by better measures to control cattle movements in areas of endemic bTB and deal with herd breakdowns more effectively sooner.

As vaccination of badgers is now going ahead in four areas in England next year and work to develop an effective cattle vaccine is underway, why do we need to begin this high risk culling strategy?

Celia Thomas Rhyd-y-Beinw, Bridell.