...cows that is. Irish cattle have some protection from tb infected wildlife, but on their horizons may be a little bit more.
While the Republic of Ireland was carrying out their very successful and well reported 4 County badger culling trial, they continued with a more targeted form of Reactive culling, possibly in such a manner suggested by Prof. Godfray (see posts below).
When a farm goes under tb restriction in the R of I, it is our understanding that depending on how many reactors are involved, badger culling is initiated anyway. Criteria for inclusion in the 4 county trial was '1 confirmed reactor cow' . This compared with the Reference area where outbreaks described as having '4 or more reactors disclosed at standard interpretation of the intradermal skin test', qualified for badger removals.
But in the rest of the Republic, provided cattle transmission can be excluded, badger removals are initiated anyway, if 2 or more cattle reactors are found at standard interpretation.
Building on their success in Monaghan, Kilkenny, Cork and Donegal, we hear that officials in the Republic are now considering 'population management' in an effort to damp down Tb in the country's badgers.
We drew your attention to the exponential growth in the UK badger population most recently in our post:
"Total Protection - Sense or Sentimentalism" (19/2/2005) with extracts from Dr. Willie Stanton's research into badger numbers, which he found had increased over 40 years from what the late Ernest Neal described as 'abundant' (1 per sq. km. in the late 50's) to 37 per sq. km in 1999. We cannot guess how Ernest Neal would have described that number - 'teeming' , 'overcrowded', 'excessive' or 'saturated' perhaps? But we understand that the Republic are considering a 'population management' excercise in an attempt to reduce the reservoir of Tb in their badgers both to prevent its overspill into cattle and other species, and for the health and welfare of the badgers themselves.
Under the terms of the Berne convention this reduction can be up to 20 percent, and here the Irish have a distinct advantage over the 'devolved' UK. Mountain, moorland, lakes and forests will account for a small percentage of badgers in a much larger area of available land, while clearances on land where cattle are farmed will be a great deal higher - but still total less than 20 percent overall.
For the sake of English cattle, may we reclaim Snowdonia and the Cairngorms?