What these 25 dead hunting hounds could tell us about the badger cull

Link between bovineTB and hunting hounds?

When we talk about fox hunting, there is one victim who often gets forgotten amid the heated exchanges – the hounds. We already know that sadly many dogs are ‘euthanised’ (typically shot) by the age of 8 simply because they are no longer considered useful, and countless puppies are discarded and killed simply because they won’t make good hunt hounds or even if they don’t look the part.

This week, these animals suffered another cruel blow, as at least 25 hunting hounds were reportedly put down after an outbreak of bovine TB struck a hunting group based in Aylesbury. Somewhat ironically, the Kimblewick Hunt also happens to count the animal welfare Minister, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, as one of its members.

It’s a well-known fact that it isn’t just badgers and cattle that can contract bovine TB. The Government has always been quick to write off the infection levels in domestic pets, but this week’s revelation firmly brings this back on to the agenda.

So how did these dogs contract bovine TB? Investigations into the outbreak are still ongoing; however, it’s been reported that the hunt group believe the infection was probably spread after the dogs were fed contaminated meat. Another potential source could be that the hunt may have crossed farmland laced with infected slurry. Either way, the source of the infection seems likely to be cattle. Cattle to cattle is still the most commonly documented form of bovine TB transmission. If investigations prove a cattle to dog link, it could be further evidence that cattle are more likely to infect badgers than vice versa.

Regardless of how the infection happened, this incident still begs the question of how well regulated a hunt’s activities are within high TB incidence areas. It seems strange that in order to vaccinate a badger, volunteers must thoroughly disinfect their shoes and their vehicle’s tyres when traveling from sett to sett, and yet a hunting party may travel many miles without any such stipulations on disease control.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will be seeking answers from the Government about how transmission of bovine TB via hunting hounds is being tackled as part of their overall strategy. Sadly all this is too late for those dogs that have already been put down. But perhaps learning from this incident will save other animals in the future by helping us further understand how bovine TB is spreading across the country. 

Needless to say fox hunting - which continues to happen through the guise of ‘trail’ hunting – is an exceptionally cruel activity. This week’s bovine TB outbreak revelations serve as even more evidence that this outdated practice must end for the sake of animal welfare, both domestic and wild.

--RH

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