Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum

James Dixon of the League Against Cruel Sports writes about how environment secretary Caroline Spelman's claims her badger cull is "science-led" are complete nonsense.

By James Dixon of the League Against Cruel Sports

The frustration writers feel when actors fluff their lines can only pale into insignificance to what scientists feel when government ministers stand at the dispatch box and butcher their work.

Take environment secretary Caroline Spelman. On Tuesday, she announced a policy of badger culling and repeatedly called it “science-led”.

She added:

“Scientists agree that if culling is conducted in line with the strict criteria identified from the randomised badger culling trial, we would expect it to reduce TB in cattle over a 150 sq km area, plus a 2 km surrounding ring, by an average of 16% over nine years.”

However, as shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh pointed out on Left Foot Forward yesterday, scientists do not agree on this point.

The final report (pdf) of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) which oversaw the original Randomised Badger Cull Trial (RBCT) study states:

“The reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling.”

Lord Krebs, who was the architect of the original RBCT, says culling will be futile and on the Today programme said the government had ignored the scientific advice.

Sir David Attenborough, meanwhile, says culling could make bovine TB in badgers much worse:

“Survivors will carry the disease into areas that have hitherto been unaffected. There’s good scientific research available to show that culling badgers can make things worse and not better.”

So, scientists do not agree that culling will reduce bovine TB.

What is more shocking than trying to paint a picture of scientific uniformity on an issue everyone knows is hotly disputed, however, is that even the scientist whose research is cited by Ms Spelman as the basis of the government pressing ahead with the cull does not agree with the government’s conclusions.

She told the House of Commons:

“The question of the science is an incredibly important and pivotal point. When the previous government set up the randomised badger culling trial, the initial results showed that within the culled area, there was a significant reduction in TB breakdowns in herds.

“The perimeter of the area was where the perturbation effect was apparent. The science has continued to be monitored by Christl Donnelly, who has published and had peer reviewed findings on the long-term effect of the decision to cull badgers as a method of reducing the incidence of TB.

“In the longer term, the reduction in TB herd breakdowns is sustained within the culled area and the negative perturbation effect falls away 12 to 18 months after the culling ceases. That is the science and those are the facts.

“The scientists agree on the facts. I encourage the hon. Lady to read Christl Donnelly’s most recent publication.”

Later adding:

“The science published since 2007 by Christl Donnelly and peer reviewed is an important factor in the decision.”

Well, I recommend the Secretary of State read the latest scientific evidence too.

What the Secretary of State did not mention was the conclusions made by Donnelly, and her fellow scientists Woodroffe and Jenkins, in their 2010 report ‘The duration of the effects of repeated widespread badger culling on cattle tuberculosis following the cessation of culling’.

One of the principal findings of Donnelly was:

“The financial costs of culling an idealised 150 square km area would exceed the savings achieved through reduced cattle TB, by factors of 2 to 3.5.”

Donnelly’s report concludes:

“Our findings show that the reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling.

“These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain.”

There is a twin tragedy about to unfold. We will see thousands of badgers culled and the farming community falsely reassured because the government wants to be seen to be doing something about the very real issue of bovine TB.

This policy is not science-led in the slightest; some scientists say it will make things worse and others say the benefits are disproportionate to the cost, a cost which the govt has asked farmers to bear entirely.

Please sign the League Against Cruel Sport’s petition against the cull.

36 Responses to “Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum”

  1. Caer

    RT @leftfootfwd Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/SpSAj3A writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  2. Mike Le-Surf

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  3. thejamesdixon

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  4. Rebecca Devitt

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  5. Andy Saul

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  6. Samuel Palin

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  7. Peter Durant

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  8. Michael

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum – http://tinyurl.com/3tcjonb

  9. ray turner

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum – http://tinyurl.com/3tcjonb

  10. Teresa

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  11. Helen Thomas

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/D030u2J @bengoldacre one for you?

  12. Paul McGlynn

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/70OCnlC

  13. Terri Holloway

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum – http://tinyurl.com/3tcjonb

  14. Elizabeth

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  15. Mr. Sensible

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Why did the government pull the plug on the vaxination trials?

  16. The League

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  17. Newbloke

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/ptwKzsP

  18. Kerry McCarthy

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  19. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/qFNFCS0

  20. Keith Saunders

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  21. VeganVeloist

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/B1LLCwB

  22. Gavin Shuker

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  23. Amanda Miller

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/sWK53xJ

  24. Francis van Staa

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims #badgercull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/AgQvDus (I'd call it BS!)

  25. Charles Henry

    Bovine Tuberculosis, sometimes found in cattle is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. . Infection caused by this bacterium has now been identified in virtually all mammals, but most are only spill-over hosts. . The major vector and reservoir species in the UK has now been identified as the European badger, Meles-meles. . Its largely subterranean lifestyle is an ideal incubation environment for this very slow growing, insidious bacterium. . There is no realistic treatment for any infected animal, and unfortunately the only humane solution for any infected animal is euthanasia. . This bacterium has been in the environment for thousands of years and the current BCG vaccine for human tuberculosis Mycobacterium tuberculosis, first used in 1921, is now weakening and becoming increasingly ineffective. Unless an effective alternative for humans can soon be found the world is facing potentially great unknown difficulties with these bacterium. and unless an effective, appliable vaccine for any reservoir species in the wild can be found; which is at the present unlikely, the only remedy is control of numbers by culling.

    The thing the badger groups will not accept and now even deny with sophistry about badger numbers in the 50s & 60s, is the fact that we once conquered this problem by clearing badger setts in the locality of herds and culling any reactor cattle. . The national herd was clear of disease and all herds in the UK were officially designated ‘Brucellosis Free’ in October 1985. . That is ‘all such pathogens’.

    With the discovery of Streptomycin and other antibiotics and drugs; we thought we had beaten tuberculosis and all the sanatoriums had long been closed. . . Then some in their mistaken wisdom decided the risk from badgers was by then minimal. . With the explosion in the badger population, we can all now see just how ‘minimal’ that was.

    The gassing of badgers ceased in the late 1970s and testing of cattle continued. . In 1986, a total of 38,000 herds comprising 3,200,000 cattle were tested, resulting in the slaughter of just 506 cattle that reacted to the test. . The latest position with vast numbers being slaughtered is neither acceptable or sustainable.

  26. Sarah Williams

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  27. Anon E Mouse

    This is just cruelty to me. Vaccinate cattle and leave badgers alone.

    And while we’re at it can’t we ban the abhorrent practice of Halal meat in this civilised country?

  28. Lancashire Badgers

    Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum: http://t.co/CjWlSUC writes @LeagueACS’s @TheJamesDixon

  29. Zuzana Jones

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum http://t.co/xWLd8YF

  30. thejamesdixon

    @fabulosity1 there's a #BadgerCull because the Govt have ignored the science that said it won't work – http://bit.ly/pJHcdt

  31. The League

    @Phil_RAs No Problem. Here are our Chief Exec's blogs http://bit.ly/mR6iko & http://bit.ly/nNLsvL and one from me http://bit.ly/pJHcdt

  32. Caroline Spelman needs to start doing her job properly | Left Foot Forward

    […] with a shambles? After the forests sell off failure, the circus animals ban farce and the badger cull catastrophe, comes Spelman’s unwanted meddling in our nation’s planning […]

  33. Linda Evans

    The badger cull is hardly science-led: http://t.co/G0VHxVNI We're doing it because we've always done it. #PMQs

  34. Phil Whittaker

    The badger cull is hardly science-led: http://t.co/G0VHxVNI We're doing it because we've always done it. #PMQs

  35. The League

    @TheDappy thanks for telling your followers about the Badger Cull. It really is a bad policy http://t.co/cd8hqLev

  36. Caroline Spelman remains deeply confused by dangerous dogs legislation | Left Foot Forward

    […] Spelman’s claims badger cull is “science-led” are pure bunkum 21 Jul […]

Leave a Reply