Localised Badger Culling Increases Risk of Herd Breakdown on Nearby, Not Focal, Land.
Bielby J., Vial F., Woodroffe R., Donnelly CA.
Bovine tuberculosis is an important disease affecting the UK livestock industry. Controlling bovine tuberculosis (TB) is made more complex by the presence of a wildlife host, the Eurasian badger, Meles meles. Repeated large-scale badger culls implemented in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) were associated with decreased cattle risks inside the culling area, but also with increased cattle risks up to the 2km outside the culling area. Intermediate reductions in badger density, as achieved by localised reactive culling in the RBCT, significantly increased cattle TB. Using a matched-pairs case-control study design (n = 221 pairs of cattle herds), we investigated the spatial scale over which localised badger culling had its biggest impact. We found that reactive badger culling had a significant positive association with the risk of cattle TB at distances of 1-3km and 3-5km, and that no such association existed over shorter distances (<1km). These findings indicate that localised badger culls had significant negative effects, not on the land on which culling took place, but, perhaps more importantly, on adjoining lands and farms.