Badger cull credibility destroyed – says Trust

Another statement has been released by the Badger Trust – in response to a letter to the Times by the scientific experts who conducted the former Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) which is severely critical of Defra’s plans for a badger cull. And that followed hot on the heels of Lord Krebs, the architect of the RBCT and former government chief scientific adviser, speaking out about the ineffectiveness of culling and calling the plans a mistake…

Badger cull credibility destroyed–says Trust

SUBJECT: Letter in the Times 13th July 2011 from members of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG)    

The Badger Trust welcomes the publication of the letter from the distinguished panel of scientists responsible for the report on the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) which ended in 2007.  The Coalition Government itself in its consultation document published by DEFRA in September 2010, described the ISG report as being the only sufficiently rigorous one to be relied upon and the ISG’s latest criticisms reinforce the widespread condemnation of Defra’s proposals.

The text of the letter sent to the Times is reproduced below:

“Sir – Sir David King’s article (“If we want dairy farms, we must cull badgers” 8 July 2011) contributes little scientific insight to the debate on controlling cattle TB. Defra has proposed that badger culls be initiated and funded by farmers themselves. Having overseen a decade-long programme of independently-audited and peer-reviewed research on this topic, we caution that such culls may not deliver the anticipated reductions in cattle TB. King previously agreed with our conclusion that – because of the way culling affects badgers’ ecology – only large-scale, highly coordinated, simultaneous and sustained culls could have positive impacts.  Delivering and maintaining such culls would raise substantial challenges for farmers, with a risk of increasing, rather than reducing, disease incidence. Defra’s own assessments suggest that participating farmers will lose more, financially, than they gain. King asserts that shooting free-ranging badgers – Defra’s preferred culling method – “would be an effective and considerably cheaper alternative”, but there are no empirical data on the cost or effectiveness (or indeed humaneness or safety) of controlling badgers by shooting, which has been illegal for decades. If the government decides to proceed with this untested and risky approach, it is vital that it also instigates well-designed monitoring of the consequences.

John Bourne, Christl Donnelly, David Cox, George Gettinby, John McInerney, Ivan Morrison & Rosie Woodroffe

Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB 1998-2007″  [1]

Badger Trust chairman David Williams said:

“I sincerely hope that the Government will heed this advice – they promised to be guided by science and it is becoming abundantly clear that a cull which includes previously untried and untested methods will make matters worse rather than better. It is our clear view that the ISG’s comments,  following on so closely to Lord Krebs’ criticisms and the latest Imperial College research, are yet another damning indictment, from world renowned independent experts, of Defra’s ill conceived slaughter plan, a plan which no longer has any scientific credibility.” 

[1]  The Times (Letters) 13th July 2011

8 Responses to “Badger cull credibility destroyed – says Trust

  1. In my opinion badgers have lived with us for millenium, we have reached a critical point in our relationship with them, and all wildlife in general.In all areas of our lives we dominate, and if wildlife suffers then so be it.
    . this attitude is seeing the total colapse of many of our native species , through loss of habitat, chemicals used in farming as well as those entering our water courses,and as for our larger mammals foxes are shot ,or killed along with badgers on our many and congested roads .
    We now have T.B. which i know is devestating ,but badgers are only living where they have always lived, unaware of their impending death ,there has to be a better way.An oral medication would be the best way , administered by volunteers who are trained vets or badger trust members, to prevent tb in badgers and free the farmers of this dreadful desease . i sincerely hope this will be done……

  2. The Badger Trust, sadly, are wrong one this, in my opinion. While the specific findings of the ISG trials were published in 2007 the science did not stop on that date. There is data relating to badger population density and infection rates in the trail areas since 2007 to date, and will continue in the future. This data is crucial in shedding light on issues such as perturbation and infection rates after culling has stopped. For the Badger Trust to argue that the science stopped in 2007, is quite simply, daft.

  3. Brychan science did not stop in 2007 but neither did common sense.
    Bovine TB is rife on the Isle of Man yet there are no badgers on the Isle of Man so it appears to me that the badger IS a scapegoat. Scotland is bTb free but does not kill badgers.
    I am a science graduate but I think that I have common sense.
    I can’t see that all farmers/landowners will get together and work in harmony over 9 years and then at most get a reduction in bovine Tb of 16%. Certainly they wouldn’t work together without the restrictions of a police state that was being proposed for the Intensive Action Area (IAA) in Wales.
    Even among farmers there is growing questioning of a ‘science’ led approach. Write ‘science led’ often enough and the hope is among certain politicians that all they say will just be accepted. There is a growing group of Badger_Friendly UK farmers that dispute that killing badgers is science led. Up to 83% of the population (the farmer’s customers) do not agree that killing badgers is science led.
    Since Elin Jones announced a badger kill in April 2008 I have bought No Welsh produce. I am lucky now that I have found a badger friendly source in England that can provide all my food needs. And they deliver to my door, quality assured.
    I would argue that a badger kill is unnecessary and if the other guidelines announced by Caroline Spelman are rigorously followed bovine TB will decline without killing a badger (as it has in the IAA)
    Spelmans’ proposals include:
    More frequent routine TB testing (but even then the test is unreliable and many cattle are needlessly slaughtered. I have contracted the human form of TB as a young boy and have TB lesions. My body healed itself. I am no danger to the public but if I were a cow I would have been slaughtered. I’m now a healthy 70+.)
    DNA tagging to prevent TB reactor fraud. (We have already had farmers taken to court for this – how much did these farmers contribute to their own problem?)
    Perturbation. How can the farmers prevent this in practise? It will limit the areas that can be selected for a badger kill.
    Movement restrictions. (But already John Griffiths AM has been asked to relax these restrictions in Wales and farmers again brought to court for violations.)
    Bio security – even basic measures are ignored but no action can be taken as surprisingly regulations are in force but cannot be enforced by law.
    I could go on and on.

    I am as frustrated as are the farmers that despite a problem for years an oral bovine and badger vaccine is still not available. If it was a human problem all stops would be pulled and the disease contained.

    Now I have some questions to ask farmers.
    Why does farming only contribute a measly 0.5% to the Welsh economy? (Tourism contributes over 20 times more at 13.3%?)
    For every cow slaughtered for bovine TB, 10 more are slaughtered for largely preventable conditions – mastitis, lame foot and yet this does not seem to concern the farmer.
    Despite payments to farmers to halt the decline in wild life e.g. songbirds there is still a loss of wild life to the point that some are close to extinction..
    If bovine TB is a human health hazard as many farmers claim why are Band B’s allowed on working farms?

  4. Q – Why does farming only contribute a measly 0.5% to the Welsh economy?

    A – That’s just a measure of gate price turnover. It’s a bit like using the measure of steelworks gate price and ignoring the value of finished product (downstream) to the economy. Without farming ALL our food would be imported.


    Q – For every cow slaughtered for bovine TB, 10 more are slaughtered for largely preventable conditions – mastitis, lame foot and yet this does not seem to concern the farmer.

    A – All cattle are slaughtered. Most other conditions you mention relate to age, and is of concern to the farmer. However, bTB is an infectious condition, hence the need to prioritise.


    Q – Despite payments to farmers to halt the decline in wild life e.g. songbirds.

    A – It’s organic cattle farming in West Wales that is currently preserving habitat. Further decline in cattle farming will further reduce this habitat.


    Q – If bovine TB is a human health hazard as many farmers claim why are Band B’s allowed on working farms?

    A – bTB is not a significant human health hazard, and has not been since the 1930s when pasteurisation became the norm. The health hazard relates to cattle. Infected cattle suffer.

  5. Thank you for your time Brychan

    ‘why does farming only contribute a measly 0.5% to the Welsh economy’
    Your answer- most suppliers could use that argument.

    ‘without farming all our food would be imported’.
    My experience shared by numerous contacts is that there is little Welsh produce on supermarket shelves. Waitrose told me last year that most Welsh produce was not up to their standard. However they did stock leeks from Wales. Asda does stock some Welsh produce but not of a standard I will accept.
    The good news is that after an intensive search I have now found a supplier (English) that delivered to my home my first food box of the highest quality today, organic and reasonably priced. The supplier satisfied my demand that I would only purchase from farmers anti cull. Can you find me a Welsh supplier that can fulfil the criteria above?

    ‘all cattle are slaughtered’
    The point I am making is that these cattle are slaughtered before their working (albeit short) life expectancy.

    ‘it is organic cattle farming in West Wales that is currently preserving habitat.’
    This is laudable. What percentage of cattle farming is organic and what percentage of them are anti cull?

    ‘bovine TB is not a significant health hazard’
    The general public know this but that didn’t prevent the late Brynnle Williams AM address the Sennydd with an emotive speech during a debate on the badger kill dreading that his much loved grand daughter succumb to the disease.
    Agri- Brigade (Private Eye) written by a farmer warned the readership of the ‘danger’ of bTB to public health. When challenged he retracted the statement.
    However this urban myth raises it’s head periodically.

    I still maintain that if Spelman’s proposals were strictly adhered to there would be no need for a badger kill.
    Her proposal for a kill in the first year or so does nothing to lower bovine TB but only an exercise to see if badgers can be killed humanely (being shot in the night and on the move NO NO N0!!!) and whether acceptable to the public. Today’s and recent polls suggest NO.

    My congratulations to the Welsh farmers who will receive £3.5m over the next 3 years to promote Welsh lamb in the UK, France Italy and Germany. Half the money will come from Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the remainder from EU funding to promote agricultural products. In these straitened times farming must be the envy of other industries.

    Nobody seems to explain why despite no badgers on the Isle of Man, bTB is rife there.


  6. Rife ? Eh ? The Isle of Man has had only five cases of bTB infection, in 2001/02. The herds were destroyed. In each case it was introduced by an imported animal. However, since 2003, there has been NO cases of bTB in the native herds on the Isle of Man. There were 7 cases since 2003 when the Isle of Man became bTB free, but all these were in the “post-import quarantine holding” of imported stock.

  7. Movement of stock. Eh!. You might have hit the nail on the head there Brychan.

  8. Yes, Tom.

    This is why badger free IoM adopted the same type of cattle movement controls that have applied in Wales since 2004. This raises the question of why bTB is still very persistent where there is a high badger population density. The real question is….

    (a) efficacy of a badger vaccine where bTB is endemic in the badger population, or
    (b) culling in an area of robust perturbation boundaries, the IAA, or
    (c) option (b) then (a) as the vaccine dues not cure already infected badgers.