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 . 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  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
The international science journal Nature commented in an editorial  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”.
 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
Badger Trust media adviser
0775 173 1107
Badger Trust is the only charity solely dedicated to the conservation of
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