Dear Editor — Michael Sharratt, of Badger Watch and Rescue Dyfed, says that before the 1970s bovine TB was reduced “by testing cattle and controlling the movement of cattle from infected areas to non-infected areas” without culling one badger.

However, this demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the history and science of the bovine TB problem.

Bovine TB was eradicated from most of the UK up until the early 1970s through testing and controlling cattle movements, but in those days culling badgers was legal, and in most areas badger numbers were much lower than they are now, as confirmed by the Badger Trust’s own figures.

In the pockets of infection where testing and controlling cattle movements had not eradicated bovine TB, scientists looked into the issue and found that these were areas in which badger populations were high, thus establishing the link between badgers and the infection.

In the 1970s, badger protection legislation was introduced, which brought to an end unlicensed culling for pest control purposes, and led ultimately to the high numbers of badgers that now exist in most parts of Wales.

During the same period, culling became government policy in areas where badgers were believed to be the reason for the persistence of bovine TB in cattle, and this, coupled with cattle control measures, led to a continued reduction in the number of cattle culled as a result of bovine TB until 1986, when just 638 cattle were culled in the UK due to the disease, and badger culling policies were scaled down.

Mr Sharratt claims that the Independent Scientific report on badger culling “said that badgers only play a very small part in causing TB in cattle.”

This is untrue, as the report fully acknowledged the significant role that badgers play in bovine TB transmission.

Finally, Mr Sharratt referred to the latest Jenkins report, stating that the paper shows “any small benefit that may be gained by culling badgers will quickly fade away”.

However, the Jenkins paper is based on an area without significant geographical boundaries, and therefore is not directly comparable with north Pembrokeshire.

Jenkins’ results should therefore be considered alongside other results, such as those found following the Thornbury trials, where badger culling eliminated bovine TB from the area for ten years.

Nicholas Fenwick Farmers’ Union of Wales