The Department of Agriculture does not routinely test badgers killed on roads for TB and only 61 such carcases were submitted to regional veterinary labs for testing in 2023.

Over 14,500 badgers were captured as part of the country’s TB eradication programme last year.

The Department has stated that the 61 roadkill carcases sent for testing represent a “tiny fraction” of the number of badgers vaccinated or removed.

A Department spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journalthat badger carcases found along roads are “often unusable in a laboratory context” as they are found more frequently during summer months in an “advanced state of decomposition”.

Department veterinary inspectors can request a test for roadkill badgers if they deem one to be of sufficient benefit to the disease.

Positive test

The spokesperson did not state how many of the 61 roadkill badgers tested positive for TB or in which counties they were found when asked.

“The extensive active surveillance programme organised by the Department of Agriculture provides sufficient and robust epidemiological data,” they said.

In contrast, in 2023 one in five of the 428 badgers of suitable condition sent for TB testing after being found dead on roads in Northern Ireland showed up as having the disease, according to figures released by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. However, research suggests that the culture test commonly used in veterinary post mortems may detect just 55% of cases.

This test is used when no visible lesions are found on examination, which may be the case where badgers with TB are in a latent or early stage of infection.