In the UK, the Badger Cull has become a national news item, and has stimulated fierce public debate, campaigns, protests and petitions from both sides. Many impassioned articles have been written over the last few months and years, but in many cases, even reputable authors have been guilty of cherry-picking data to support their claim. Everybody seems to have an opinion on the UK badger cull, and this often obscures the real science that is being done to investigate this crucial social and economic issue.
A Little Background
For those of you who haven’t heard about it, the badger cull is a UK government policy aimed at reducing the incidence of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) by reducing transmission rates from a suspected infection reservoir in the European badger (Meles meles). It has been implemented on and off since the early 1970s, despite legal protection of the badger since 1986.
They might seem simple and insignificant, but like humans, ants have discovered the benefits, and costs of agriculture. In the ant world there are species which farm livestock, protecting them from predators and milking them for rich nectar, and others which cultivate tiny underground fields of fungus, pruning it and using chemicals to prevent disease and pests.
Crops and Livestock
Humans developed farming around 10,000 years ago, but the ants have been at it much longer. In its simplest form, ant farming consists of simply pruning the surrounding forest. Ants of one species found in the Amazonian rainforest have been found to remove unwanted plant species when they appear in its foraging area. Although simple, this ‘weeding’ behaviour can be devastating, with ants clearing huge sections of forest of any species which is not beneficial to them.
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