Badgers and TB

Lecture Theatre B34, Birkbeck, University of London,
Torrington Square,
United Kingdom

Badgers and TB


Speaker: Dave Dawson

Friday 1st March, 18.30

Lecture theatre B34, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London

Dave Dawson is a New Zealander whose early work was in applied vertebrate population ecology there. He studied birds in agriculture and then worked on the breeding ecology of House Sparrows at Oxford, UK, returning to New Zealand to work on biological recording, the conservation of native birds in remnant forests, biological recording and ecological methodology. His team also studied the Australian possum, an introduced vector of bovine TB in New Zealand. He moved to London in 1983 to work on applied urban ecology, developing the system used to identify and protect Wildlife Sites here. In retirement, he is working on a variety of ecological and biological recording projects and he retains an active interest in scientific developments in applied ecology.
Bovine TB in cattle has increased greatly over the last few decades, causing considerable economic loss and hardship to individual farmers, but transmission of the disease is very difficult to study directly. There’s no doubt,however, that badgers in some areas carry TB and can transmit it to cattle. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (“Krebs trial”, with culling between 1998 and 2005) used an unusually excellent study design. It established that culling locally in response to finding diseased cattle made the problem worse and that even blanket culling over large areas gave only a small reduction of cattle infection. This may be because culling disrupts badger social structure, leading to increased movements and so transmission of the disease, but also because much disease transmission is cattle to cattle. Sadly, control of bovine TB became an issue in the last election and much cherry picking of the science has resulted. The lecture attempts to steer a sensible course through the resulting mire and asks what is the best way forward.
Free Lecture Series, Birkbeck, Ecology and Conservation Studies Society and Linnean Society of London.

Badger Social

Wildlife is greatly valued by many of us, but some gives rise to conflicts. Do we all want to see raptors increasing? What about field sports? Can we do anything to stem the inexorable spread of Grey Squirrels at the expense of the native Reds? How best can we halt the spread of TB in cattle, knowing that Badgers carry the disease? Will High Speed Rail cause ecological severance? Most of us would like to see rats controlled, but how far should pest control extend, as far as Feral Pigeons?

Badger images taken by Pat Morris FLS

Click here for a map to Birkbeck College (marked as '1').