Badger Trust responds to Farmers Weekly article on Cull Parliamentary Debate

Charity clarifies cull facts and queries ‘misrepresentation’ of a scientific paper and ‘misleading and inaccurate’ MP quotes.

On 22nd March 2022, Farmers Weekly featured an article about the Parliamentary Debate on the badger cull. Badger Trust felt the article repeated comments by some MPs that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny and issued a response.

Peter Hambly, Executive Director of Badger Trust commented:

“We will continue to act as a voice for badgers in the face of the wildlife disaster that is the badger cull. Solutions to bovine TB should be based on science, cost and animal welfare grounds. The badger cull fails on all of these.
The evidence-base points to a cattle based solution to bTB. We will continue to call out people who focus on the badger cull as a smokescreen from enforcing robust cattle measures.”

The Letter to Farmers Weekly

Dear Farmers Weekly,

With regard to your article of 22 March on the badger cull, Badger Trust would like to respond with particular regard to some of the quotes you featured.

Thank you, firstly, for drawing attention to the scientific study regarding the impact of badger culling on bTB in cattle in high-risk areas, published in the journal Veterinary Record. It is always great to get more people interested in a research paper and the science, or lack of science, behind the badger cull.

Badger Trust wanted to clarify a few points for you as, based on available data, we feel you misrepresented the scientific paper and that selective referencing from the parliamentary debate on badger culling – in the form of Bill Wiggin MP’s quotes – are misleading, and inaccurate.

Speaking of “counterproductive, irresponsible and impossible to justify”, it sounds like perhaps Mr Wiggin was talking about the badger cull. As this recent paper and others[1],[2],[3] clearly show, there is no evidence that the badger cull is working. Badger Trust has been calling on DEFRA to show us this much-touted evidence base for years, but they have yet to produce it. The data for this latest study were all sourced from DEFRA’s own public records, yet DEFRA failed to notice, or at least report on, the lack of evidence for the ineffectiveness of the badger cull on any decline in bTB in cattle.

In fact, the much-quoted Downs et al. (2019) paper, rolled out by DEFRA in attempts to justify the cull, has been shown that rather than a decline in bTB in the three pilot cull areas cherry-picked from 2013 to 2017, the following year saw a 130% increase in bTB in cattle in Gloucestershire, one of the pilot areas in the study[4].

This latest analysis of eleven years of data, from both within and outside cull zones, shows no correlation between badger culling and a decline in bTB in cattle. Further analysis of ten county areas considered high-risk areas for bTB shows that in 9 out of 10 of these counties, bTB in cattle peaked and then began to fall before the government ever implemented a badger cull.

Nationally speaking, the number of cattle slaughtered early each year as a result of bTB over the past 10 years has remained fairly consistent between 26,000 and 33,000 cattle – a fact pointed out by Daniel Zeichner MP during the debate[5], but not reported on in your article. This also occurs at a time when, as your readers will know, cattle numbers in this country are declining.

You also failed to mention that the number of new herd incidences in England has increased in almost all areas since the cull began, whereas in Wales the number of new herd incidences has reduced in the same time, without any mass culling of badgers[6]. It sho