Defra has dismissed allegations that hunts are linked to the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Vegetarian group Viva had said: “Onslaught of rampaging feet, hounds’ noses and tyres almost certainly acts as a disease and muck spreader on an enormous scale.”
A Defra spokesperson responded: “There is no evidence that hunting contributes to the spread of bovine TB. There is no obvious correlation between the location of hunts and high incidence of TB in cattle.”
Jim Barrington, animal welfare consultant for the Countryside Alliance, has also dismissed the claims, saying: “In my 40 years of working in animal welfare I have never seen or heard of bovine TB being spread by hunts.
“The pseudo-science Viva is using is to lay one piece of evidence over another and claim a false correlation. Farmers, government, and animal welfare advocates have spent several decades trying to combat bovine TB and in all that time no one has ever linked its spread with hunting.
“As with so many people and groups who claim to represent the cause of animals, they are letting their own blind prejudices inform proper research and evidence, and in doing so they are embarrassing themselves and the people who would otherwise be supportive of their viewpoint.”
The badger cull has been given the go-ahead in pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with further culls to be implemented in 2013 if the pilots are successful.