A rigorous independent analysis of government data shows mass badger culling is not effective at stamping out bTB in cows.
Using the Westminster government's data on the incidence and prevalence of bTB, independent scientists have shown that badger culling has had no effect in reducing bTB in cattle.
A scientific paper published today in Veterinary Record* has rigorously analysed government bTB surveillance data between 2009 and 2020. The study concludes that incidences of bTB reduction were due to cattle measures implemented either before the cull ever began or during the cull period.
This rigorous and in-depth examination of government data, over a large area and a long-time frame, reinforces other studies and what Badger Trust has long been stating – mass badger culling is ineffective in reducing bTB in cattle.
The 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.
The study also dismissed the broad sweeping conclusions of a study that DEFRA repeatedly cites as their justification for the cull. The Downs et al. (2019) study claims to have shown a decline in bTB in three pilot cull areas from 2013 to 2017. This is despite the authors themselves highlighting that they were unable to isolate other influences for this decline, such as improved veterinary advice or better biosecurity on farms. A repeat study found no reliable downward trend in bTB in cattle related to the cull, and in Gloucestershire – one of the pilot areas – uncovered a 130% increase in bTB in cattle in the 12-months after the Downs study ended.
Peter Hambly, Executive Director of Badger Trust, said:
“This new study in Vet Record provides yet more irrefutable evidence that the badger cull is not working to stop, or even slow, the spread of bTB in cattle.
It highlights the need for large-scale comprehensive data when designing disease control methods, not selective cherry-picking as we have seen from the government.”
“Put simply, the badger cull has to stop immediately – there is no basis for it to continue. This study shows that the government’s bTB eradication policy is not working and wastes taxpayer money on a grand scale.
The cull is an unnecessary wildlife tragedy of unprecedented proportions and diverts DEFRA away from enforcing robust cattle measures.