Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Cattle TB – Hunting for a Reason

Viva! cries ‘tally ho’ as it unearths evidence that hunts may spread bovine TB

Blue dots show location of hunts operating in each county (many span more than one county). Red blotches show areas worst affected by TB in cattle (Defra 2009)

Is there a connection between hunting and TB?

The Government has announced two trial badger ‘cull’s’ in England to be carried out in the West of England this autumn. Even on its best estimate, annihilating 70 per cent of badgers will reduce the incidents of TB in cattle by just 16 per cent over nine years. Blame for the other 84 per cent (at least) is ignored and the anti-badger juggernaut continues to trample over science, common sense and reason.

We know that unreliable testing, the movements of millions of cattle across the country, intensified farming and bad biosecurity are largely to blame for TB in cows – not badgers. We exposed the contempt in which biosecurity measures are held at three cattle markets with undercover filming in 2011. See the results of our investigation.

To this list of reasons for how the disease is spread can be added another. By piecing two sets of data together Viva! has uncovered a potentially significant link in the chain which hasn’t even been mentioned by either Government or the farming industry. Could hunting with hounds carry some of the blame?

Hunting foxes with dogs has been outlawed since 2005 yet around 172 hunts with dogs still operate across England and Wales. Tellingly, the areas which have the most hunts are also the areas which have the highest TB infection rates - the Southwest and West of England, South Wales and the border between Wales and England.

By overlaying visual illustrations of the two sets of statistics there is a clear correlation: the greater the number of hunts, the higher the rates of TB, higher than in other areas of the UK.

A hunt will typically be made up of 20 horses, 20-40 dogs and quad bikes which race across the fields of about five farms on each outing and often operate over such wide areas that it can include two counties or more. They go out up to three times a week and vary their courses.

TB bacteria can survive in cow pats for up to eight weeks and even longer in the soil. This onslaught of rampaging feet, hound’s noses and tyres almost certainly acts as a disease and muck spreader on an enormous scale.

We have written to English and Welsh Governments with our research and have asked them to seriously consider hunting as a major vector for the spread of bovine TB. All we know at the moment is that the Westminster government is hell bent on repealing the Hunting Act, which will inevitably increase the threat even further. Wales is still undecided on what course it will take over ‘culling’.

The scapegoating of badgers is a diversion from the real reasons for the spread of TB, which include incompetence, ignorance, indolence and laughably inadequate controls. We can very likely now add another human-caused reason to the list.

Write to the Government!:Tell them that no ‘cull’ of badgers can take place – especially as there are unanswered questions about the role that hunting might play in the spread of TB. See our sample letter here.