The Badger Trust Press Release

20/5/10

Jim Paice wrong on badger killing ‘science’

The Coalition agriculture and food minister, Mr Jim Paice is reported to have told West Country farmers that there would be a badger cull in areas of high bovine tuberculosis infection.

The formal Programme for Government issued today (May 20) says only the following: “As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis”.

The Badger Trust says that if the policy really were science-led killing badgers would not be considered at all.

David Williams, the chairman, said: “We do not yet know what ‘badger control’ means – vaccination, killing the protected species or effective biosecurity measures. In the case of killing badgers, repeated, properly structured scientific research, authoritatively and publicly published, has demonstrated that killing them would be of only marginal benefit, and even that would not be permanent. In addition there is a real risk of making the situation worse.

“The pro-killing lobby repeatedly invoke the former government’s chief scientific adviser’s review of evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial of 1998-2007. In it, Sir David King found that culling could be effective [1]. However, his terms of reference were different from those on which the RBCT was conducted”. The RBCT chairman, Prof. John Bourne, responded to Sir David that he and his colleagues [2] saw the key reason for their differing conclusions was that King et al. (2007) were constrained within their terms of reference, which prevented them from fully evaluating policy options.

“While we aimed ‘to present Ministers with a range of scientifically-based policy options which will be technically, environmentally, socially and economically acceptable’ (Bourne et al., 1998), King et al. (2007) were ‘...asked to make comment on scientific issues’; their ‘brief did not extend to economic or other practical issues’,” (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, 2007).

Prof Bourne continued: “Unfortunately, the complex relationship between badger abundance and cattle TB risks, as revealed by our work, means that ‘economic [and] practical issues’ – which determine how, where, when, and on what scale badger culling might be conducted – are absolutely critical in determining whether culling would reduce or increase the incidence of cattle TB. By excluding consideration of such issues from [Sir David’s] remit, Ministers severely hampered his ability to inform policy development”.

The international science journal Nature commented in an editorial [3] on November 1st 2007 on Sir David’s report: “It would be a good idea if the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is now responsible for the matter [of bovine tuberculosis eradication] based its policy on the unfettered advice offered by Bourne's committee [Independent Scientific Group]. This would be deeply appreciated not just by the badgers, but by scientists in all spheres who choose to participate in painstaking advisory processes in the earnest belief that their advice will actually make a difference to government policy”.

http://www.badgertrust.org.uk


NOTES
[1] http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/badgersreport-king.pdf
[2] With C.A. Donnelly, D.R. Cox, G. Gettinby, J.P. McInerney, W.I. Morrison & R. Woodroffe
[3 ] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7166/full/450001b.html

Contact
Jack Reedy
Badger Trust media adviser
01564 783129
0775 173 1107
Badger Trust is the only charity solely dedicated to the conservation of badgers across Great Britain.
PO Box 708, EAST GRINSTEAD, RH19 2WN
Tel: 08458 287878 Fax: 02380 233896
E-mail press@badgertrust.org.uk
Registered charity no.1111440
Company registered in the UK No.5460677

 

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