THE article in the SNJ of October 11 about Cleo the cow contains some serious errors of fact.

While it is natural to have complete sympathy for the farmer Hillary Ogden for the situation she is in, the statement “Bovine TB is caused when the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis is airborne and spread via badgers” reflects the lack of understanding of the true background.

Badgers have been implicated in the transmission of TB to cattle but their contribution is so small that an Independent Scientific Group concluded that culling badgers cannot make a meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle.

By far the biggest problem is the spread of the disease among cattle themselves.

This is due largely to the limitations of the skin test that is used to detect the presence of TB in cattle, whereby between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of animals which are infected escape detection at routine testing.

The consequences of this are that TB can spread within a herd and to other herds when cattle are sold and moved.

Regrettably, a negative skin test does not necessarily mean that an animal is clear of TB.

There are other tests available but the Westminster Government has been lamentably slow to use them, in contrast to Wales where a much tighter testing regime and the use of additional testing methods has reduced cattle TB incidence by nearly 50 per cent in recent years.

Bovine TB is a controversial and complex issue.

I hope your readers will appreciate that the involvement of badgers does not match the simplistic description contained in this article.

In reality badgers may be more of a victim than a villain.

Dr Chris Cheeseman