Badger Trust challenges government’s lack of evidence after 19,000 more badgers culled in 2017 and calls for a full policy review.
The Badger Trust has called on the government to provide conclusive evidence that their cull policy is reducing levels of TB in cattle following the announcement that a further 19,000 badgers were culled in 2017.
“After four years spending over £50 million in taxpayer’s money and the deaths of over 40,000 badgers, the government has never been able to demonstrate any conclusive evidence that the policy is working or that it ever will,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “The latest statement from Farming Minister George Eustice  relies entirely on one piece of research  which clearly states that there is ‘no association between culling and TB incidence for Somerset, or for either of the buffer areas for the first 2 years since culling began. A weak association was observed in Gloucestershire’. The paper then goes on to state unequivocally that ‘it would be unwise to use these findings to develop generalizable inferences about the effectiveness of the policy at present.’”
“This piece of research is simply a statistical modelling exercise using carefully chosen assumptions to create an impression that the culls are working whilst directly admitting that the raw data says nothing of the sort,’ continues Dominic Dyer. “The rest of the government’s analysis and reporting  relies heavily on caveats and words such as ’should’ and ‘could’ instead of ‘will’ and ‘does’. The truth is that for the last five years the government and pro-cull lobby have presented us with a continuous stream of false justifications, cherry picked data and anecdote masquerading as scientific fact, all in the absence of any conclusive improvement in levels of bovine TB.”
“The vast majority of badgers killed have been free of the disease,” continues Dominic Dyer, “very few were ever tested and for those that were the government refused to release any figures showing how many had TB. The whole process is not just cruel and inhumane, it is completely indiscriminate. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that culling healthy badgers is never going to help farmers rid their herds of this disease. There has, in any case, never been any conclusive scientific proof of how or to what extent badgers can pass on TB to cattle in the first place.”
“The government and pro-cull lobby’s position has now become completely untenable,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin. “It is clear from Westminster insiders that there is a growing tension between the pro-cull people and those that realise the public cannot be fooled by a lack of evidence for much longer. Animal welfare has become a massive public concern that is really threatening the short and long term survival of the government. People are seeing the culls for what they are, a mass slaughter of a much loved and protected British wildlife species for no apparent gain in TB eradication. The new Environment Minister Michael Gove has promised a full review of the policy and we expect him to be true to his word.”
“In fact we think the government needs to radically rethink the whole policy from top to bottom,” continues Peter Martin, “as the current twenty-five year strategy is way too long for farmers to wait for a result and is highly unlikely to succeed in any case. A full independent review of the scientific, animal welfare, ecological impact, costs and public safety aspects of the badger cull policy must now be undertaken as a matter of urgency. This review should not only involve the farming and veterinary industry but the Badger Trust and other leading wildlife protection organisations.”
“The Welsh government have led the way in cattle TB reduction and Westminster now needs to follow suit,” concludes Peter Martin. “They have achieved this through tighter cattle controls, better biosecurity measures and improved TB testing systems, and all without culling badgers. This has to be the starting point for any future policy and it must also include a system of risk-based trading that does not bankrupt farmers if they do get a TB breakdown. But whatever happens we can never go back to the mass slaughter of our wildlife to satisfy political agendas or as a cover for landowners to reduce numbers of an animal they traditionally do not like. The culls must end now.”