Badger cull is 'costly' and 'mindless' say top scientists

Oct 14, 2012

The government's proposed cull to halt the spread of bovine TB provokes letter from 30 experts

Peter Trimming

DOZENS of the UK's top animal disease scientists have signed a letter to The Observer opposing the government's proposed badger cull, which is expected to start tomorrow. 

The letter describes the cull, which the government argues will help stop the spread of TB in cattle, as "mindless" and dubs it a "costly distraction".

Bovine TB is becoming more widespread in the UK with evidence showing that badgers can spread the disease. In 2011, 26,000 animals had to be slaughtered and the cost in compensation paid to farmers was £90m.

But the eminent scientist Lord John Krebs, who was responsible for a 10-year badger culling trial which ended in 2007 and is the government's main source for data on the subject, told The Observer: "The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case."

Krebs is one of the 31 signatories to today's letter. Another is Lord Robert May, president of the Royal Society, who told the Observer he had "no sympathy" with the government decision, adding: "It is very clear to me that the government's policy does not make sense."

The paper claims that even the government's chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, has refused to back the cull. Beddington is not a signatory to the letter, but when asked if the cull could make a meaningful contribution to tackling TB, he responded pointedly: “I am content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers."

Trials to establish whether shooting badgers at night - the animals are nocturnal - will be an effective method of culling are due to begin as soon as Monday in Somerset and Gloucestershire but campaigners have sworn to disrupt them, as The Week reported last month.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

Lord May is _former_ president of the Royal Society

That's game , match and championship.