A NEW review of the badger cull has concluded its effectiveness has been overstated by the Government.

The author of the new report, Professor Charles Godfray, of Oxford University, said his findings showed the cull made “a real, but modest, effect in reducing cattle TB”, and said that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) needed to be careful of “over-emphasising” the effectiveness of the cull, and the role of the badger in the spread of the disease.

Analysing results from the Randomised Badger Control Trials, carried out between 1998 and 2007, Prof, Godfray and his team of scientists reached the conclusion that whilst the cull does have an effect in reducing TB rates, it also appeared to increase the spread of the disease.

This is due to badgers moving across the country as their social structures deteriorate from the effects of the cull, which in turn sees the disease spread further across the country with the animals.

The report also emphasised the need for further investigation into the spread of TB from cattle to cattle, which Prof. Godfray said could be higher than previously thought.

He also called on the livestock industry to help control the disease and “take more ownership of the problem”.

This, he said, could be achieved through better managing of on-farm biosecurity measures and better information being given to farmers about disease prevention and safer trading practices.

The report also suggested that the Government conduct further research into alternative ‘tools’ against the TB, which he thinks will be more effective than the cull. These alternatives include: vaccinating uninfected badgers against TB, reducing the likelihood of new infections amongst their colonies, and further developing badger fertility control, which will reduce the number of infected badgers born.

Prof. Godfray’s findings contradict the Government’s DEFRA report, published on its TB Hub, that the cull’s effectiveness “lies between 52per cent and 100 per cent, with an average of about 80per cent sensitivity at standard interpretation”.

DEFRA minster George Eustice said: “We welcome this review of the Government’s 25-year Bovine TB strategy and I extend my thanks to Sir Charles Godfray and his team for their hard work in producing the report.

“As a Government we are committed to eradicating bTB and have always been clear that there is no single measure for tackling it.

“That’s why we have pursued a range of interventions, including cattle movement controls, vaccinations and controlled culling in certain areas.”