The presenter of the BBC television programme Countryfile, Adam Henson, a farmer, used his own herd for an item about bovine tuberculosis (bTB) on Sunday February 27. He showed himself unaware of recent reductions in the levels of infection and repeatedly implied, wrongly, that the disease was intractable.
This shallow and amateurish item was unworthy of a national broadcaster. It failed to offer either adequate information or education, or to observe due impartiality about a distressing and costly epidemic. The behaviour shown was a lesson in how to risk bTB infection.
The Badger Trust has written to the BBC to pose serious questions and to demand answers:
- Why did Mr Henson and a veterinary surgeon bring a strongly salivating cow, previously declared an inconclusive reactor, out of isolation to be tested with other cattle clearly visible nearby?
- Why was the vehicle not seen to be disinfected?
- Why did Mr Henson not mention that the incidence of bovine tuberculosis seems now to have been declining in both England and Wales over the last two years?  This achievement has followed the introduction of more stringent cattle testing and movement controls, themselves a vital part of the solution. No badgers have so far been killed in achieving these reductions.
- Why, when the programme was examining the potential of cattle vaccines, did it fail to put into perspective the true significance of cattle-to-cattle disease spread? Why did the programme fail to report the findings of a ten-year near-£50 million research programme that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”, and “geographical spread [can be] contained by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone .
- Why were only cattle deaths due to bTB listed – and costed – whereas at least ten times as many are slaughtered because of mastitis, lameness and the shooting of bull calves at birth?
 Defra County Animal Statistics (GB total) for England have now shown a steady decline of 15% percent over two consecutive years from the high point of 38,973 cattle slaughtered to an (estimated) 33,000 in 2010 – without killing badgers or any other wildlife. This would be even faster than the decline in the 1960s. In Wales, 36 percent fewer cattle have been slaughtered in Dyfed (where badger killing is proposed) over the two years at a saving for the taxpayer of about £6.5 million in compensation, again without killing badgers.
 The full statement is: “. . . While badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone”. Defra, Bourne, J. et al (2007), Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence – A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle; An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis, Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB – see ISG chairman’s covering letter.
Badger Trust is the only charity solely dedicated to the conservation of badgers throughout the UK.
PO Box 708, EAST GRINSTEAD, RH19 2WN
Tel: 08458 287878 Fax: 02380 233896
Registered charity no.1111440
Company registered in the UK No.5460677