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Badger cull will extend to cats, dogs, hamsters

The Ecologist

1st April 2014

A leaked paper from Defra reveals that future badger culls will extend to 'all host species' for bovine TB, including domestic pets, in order to eliminate all disease reservoirs.

Pets will need to trapped humanely and despatched with dignity by anaesthetic injection before being shot, and only after their owners have been given time to give a last fond farewell.

A Defra policy paper leaked exclusively to The Ecologist reveals that the department is planning to include not just badgers in future culls, but "all host species" for bovine TB that are found in the designated cull areas.

The policy shift comes in the wake of the discovery of BTB in a pet cats and dogs as revealed in the Daily Mail three days ago. "The scientific case for the badger cull is overwhelming", states the paper, "but only if all the BTB reservoirs in an area are eliminated."

"Our disease transmission model demonstrates that many of the cattle infections with TB previously attributed to badgers may in fact have been caused by farm cats, dogs and even hamsters. So it is essential to eliminate them in the cull areas also."

'Some public resistance may be anticipated'

But the paper warns that "some public resistance may be anticipated" and that the culling of domestic pets must be carried out humanely and with sensitivity to the pets owners.

"We cannot just break into people's homes and start shooting their pets", the paper makes clear. "Doors should be broken down only after knocking and giving residents adequate time to open up."

"Furthermore pets will need to trapped humanely and despatched with dignity by anaesthetic injection before being shot, and only after their owners have been given time to give a final fond farewell."

The cull will however not include goldfish, lizards, geckos or other reptiles. "Evidence of infection with bovine TB in fish and reptiles is lacking so the prudent policy, until further notice, will be to exclude them from the cull but maintain a close watching brief."

Unfavourable reaction

Cat owner Beryl Chalmers of Lower Wenlock in the Somerset cull area was among those who objected to the plan. "I do realise that TB is a terrible disease", she commented. "But why can't they just give my Mr Tibbins a vaccination instead of putting him down?"

The leaked paper does raise the possibility of vaccination but says the idea would "run foul of EU regulations", while there would also be a 10-year lead period for vaccine development.

Asked to confirm or deny the Government's plans a Defra spokesman said: "Has it occurred to you that you've been had? It is April the first, you know."



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