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By Helena Horton for the Daily Telegraph

Cows belonging to Prince Charles are among thousands of animals affected by bovine tuberculosis (bTB), vets have said.

There has been an outbreak at the royal farm near Windsor Castle, as well as four in Prince Charles’ organic herd at the Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.

The cause of the infections are unknown but vets say it is likely the cows came into contact with other cattle carrying the disease.

The prince’s spokesman told the Sunday Times: “The Duchy of Cornwall is acutely aware of the importance of halting the spread of bTB.

Hundreds of pet cats as well as a lion from a zoo in Devon are also likely to be affected by the disease.

The cats are likely to have caught it after hunting infected mice, rats and voles.

“It is currently thought that most cats are infected when bitten by infected small rodents while hunting,” said a paper published in the Vet Record.

“Feline bTB is now a significant disease in cats in Great Britain.”

Indu the lion, from Paignton zoo, had to be put to sleep after becoming infected, after staff unwittingly fed her the carcass of a cow carrying bTB.

Zoos are at risk from bTB, as they feed their animals uncooked meat from animals which may carry the disease.

Cats who catch the illness cause vet bills of thousands of pounds, and can even infect their owners. Bovine tuberculosis can also affect dogs, with foxhounds who take part in hunts most at risk.

The new cases suggest that a 2013 prediction by Ian Boyd, the chief scientist at Defra, that bTB would “spill over”to pets, new livestock species and potentially humans, could be coming true.