IN March it was revealed that between 25 and 50 hounds had been killed by the Kimblewick Hunt in Buckinghamshire following a bovine tuberculosis (bTB) outbreak in December 16.

This devastating disease led to thousands of cows being slaughtered and prompted the controversial badger cull, yet this outbreak among a pack of hounds attached to a hunt which ranges across six counties and numerous farms has apparently not been taken seriously, and was only revealed by investigators two months after it happened.

The vets involved are members of the hunt, as is the Government’s Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner of Kimble.

There are currently 90 recorded outbreaks of bTB in the hunt’s area, meaning the number has more than doubled since the infection among the hounds. Despite several FOI requests, Defra has refused to release information about the Kimblewick outbreak, or other outbreaks in hound packs which may have occurred elsewhere in the UK. Defra initially claimed bTB in hounds was not a notifiable disease – then changed its position once the outbreak became public.

The reason given by Defra for the euthanasia of the bTB-infected hounds was that they were a risk to their handlers. The Master of Foxhounds Association immediately suspended activities “to protect farmers and landowners”.

One of the main arguments given to continue badger culling in 2013 was that pet dogs could catch the disease and transmit it to their owners.

Yet now Defra claims the risk of infected hounds transmitting the disease to other animals or humans is low. If that is the case, it removes one of the key justifications of the badger cull.

Repeal of the Hunting Act, as proposed by the Conservatives at the last election, would surely increase the risk of spreading infectious disease agents.

VL Lonsdale, Nosterfield