The culling of badgers is cost effective and has contributed significantly to the improved Bovine TB disease situation in recent years.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that is the view of his department, particularly since 2008, during which time the number of reactors has declined by almost 50%, from around 30,000 to 15,600 last year.
“This is a new record low since the commencement of the eradication programme in the 1950s and, for the first time since then, eradication is now a practicable proposition.
“It is noteworthy that the animal prevalence of TB in Ireland in 2013 was, at 0.26%, roughly half of that in Northern Ireland where badger culling is not practised,” he said.
Mr Coveney, responding to Dáil queries by Independent TD Catherine Murphy, said the improvement in the TB situation has also resulted in a significant reduction in expenditure on the eradication scheme, which has fallen from €55m in 2008 to €30m in 2013.
“It is also noteworthy the incidence of TB in badgers has fallen by about 50% since 2002, and this is also contributing to the reduction in the incidence of the disease in cattle,” he said.
Ms Murphy also asked the minister if he had studied a recent paper which indicates that culling badgers in Britain has little impact on reducing the spread of TB.
Mr Coveney said his department is aware of the report and will study it further as part of the ongoing review of the bovine TB eradication scheme.
Mr Coveney pointed out that badgers are only removed in areas where an epidemiological investigation carried out by his department’s veterinary inspectorate has found that they are the likely source of infection.
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