Exploration of the power of routine surveillance data to assess the impacts of industry-led badger culling on bovine tuberculosis incidence in cattle herds.
Donnelly CA., Bento AI., Goodchild AV., Downs SH.
In the UK, badgers (Meles meles) are a well-known reservoir of infection, and there has been lively debate about whether badger culling should play a role within the British Government's strategy to control and eventually eradicate tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. The key source of information on the potential for badger culling to reduce cattle TB in high-cattle-TB-incidence areas remains the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). In late 2013, two pilot areas were subjected to industry-led badger culls. These culls differed importantly from RBCT culling in that free-ranging as well as cage-trapped badgers were shot, and culling took place over a longer time period. Their impacts will be harder to evaluate because culling was not randomised between comparable areas for subsequent comparisons of culling versus no culling. However, the authors present calculations that explore the power of routine surveillance data to assess the impacts of industry-led badger culling on cattle TB incidence. The rollout of industry-led culling as a component of a national cattle TB control policy would be controversial. The best possible estimates of the effects of such culling on confirmed cattle TB incidence should be made available to inform all stakeholders and policy-makers.