Don’t kill the badgers!: Bovine TB and vitamin D

Various local (UK) media, including The Independent, have informed us that the government is planning a badger cull in order to reduce TB infection in British cattle. Not only will this be done at the expense of the tax payer, it also seems that the cost-benefit is poor.

While this is certainly one possible – offensive – way of limiting the spread of TB to cattle, I don’t think it’s a great long-term solution; not to mention it being a bloody one. The best approach,  I think, is defensive, and I hope somehow DEFRA read this.

Cattle are not indigenous to Britain. They were imported here to serve our meat and dairy needs. Furthermore, confinement prevents these animals from making vitamin D via sunlight; this is echoed in the fact that their milk needs to be fortified for the supermarket. Badgers themselves probably come out less during the day partly because of human control of the landscape. Thus both animals will lack vitamin D and are susceptible to carry the TB mycobacterium for that reason.

Now, I don’t think that the government, in this recession, would care much for ensuring badgers get enough daylight exposure, but an acceptable cost-effective way of preventing TB in cattle would be to take them out of confinement, or better, to install UVB lighting where they reside. There are some papers in the medical literature from over a decade ago, this being one example, that hint that a healthy vitamin D status can fight bovine TB. No animals are harmed in this way and the public purse is deflated less.

We have to wonder: If bovine TB is so devastating, it must be a fairly recent major concern else all our cattle would’ve died out long before their import. TB mycobacterium didn’t just appear recently; what made it more of a worry? The vitamin D hypothesis sheds light on that.

The more cattle get confined, the more we will see immune system challenges passed on to their offspring.

TB amongst humans has sometimes been blamed on non-white immigrants to the UK, the belief being that they bring the illness with them. But no, TB is everywhere. The fact that those immigrants suffer more in a different climate is because of poor adaptation to the climate. TB amongst whites means that they have some vitamin D challenge as well.

See the comparison? Only the far-right would cull immigrants.

If this awoke something in you check out my book.

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