Defra admits using incorrect data to deny findings of important new badger cull research

In an extraordinary development, Defra has admitted using incorrect data in their rebuttal to the recent scientific paper from Langton, Jones and McGill that concluded the badger cull was ineffective in reducing bTB in cattle.

This week, Farmers Weekly reported “Defra urged to come clean on badger culling data” in response to the discovery that Defra chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, and chief scientific adviser, Gideon Henderson, recently admitted to one of the paper’s authors, Mr Langton, that their rebuttal figures were wrong.

Peter Hambly, Executive Director of Badger Trust, commented:

“It beggars belief that Defra could have got their own figures wrong on such a crucial area.

“Badger Trust continues to put forward the case the badger cull is unjustified on scientific, animal welfare and cost grounds. The new independent study gave further evidence that the badger cull simply does not work in reducing bTB; in response, Defra’s rebuttal is now found to contain incorrect data. This is a mess, and the badger cull needs to stop – no more badgers should be lost.”

On 13th April 2022, Badger Trust hosted the Big Badger Debate webinar with ecologist Tom Langton and veterinary surgeon Dr Mark Jones, two authors of the scientific paper. Zoonotic expert Professor Dr Paul Torgerson also joined the authors, and the panel discussed the significance of the findings and the methodological rigour employed. The paper, published in Vet Record in March 2022, analysed data released publicly by Defra using a variety of statistical methods, all of which “failed to identify a meaningful effect of badger culling on bTB in English cattle herds”. Defra turned down the opportunity to participate in the open debate.

Responding to the new study, Defra submitted a strong rebuttal along with its own data and calculations. Unlike Langton, Jones, and McGill’s paper, the rebuttal was not subject to peer review and was published in the same volume of Vet Record. Defra also released a further statement accusing the independent scientists of “manipulating the data” and claiming their research “had been produced to fit a clear campaign agenda”.

Defra provided rebuttal data to contest the independent analysis and has now admitted these data were incorrect.

Defra’s corrected calculations continue to show no convincing difference between culled and unculled areas, seemingly in line with the findings reported by th