Bow Group’s arrow spikes culling policy

From the Badger Trust:

The Badger Trust is delighted that the Bow Group, representing all strands of Conservative opinion, has issued a paper urging the Coalition Government to reconsider plans to begin badger killing in England in the autumn in its efforts to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB). It says the Government’s policy was likely to be more costly and less practical to conduct than Defra believed. [1]

This follows the abandonment, announced last week, of badger killing in Wales in favour of a programme of vaccination. The Bow Group’s document [2] rightly recalls that killing badgers has been proven to have made bTB worse and that the focus should be on vaccination instead. The group, which says it exists to develop policy, publish research and stimulate debate within the Conservative Party, has published contributions from some of Britain’s leading bTB scientists and a foreword by former Queen guitarist, animal rights campaigner and astrophysicist Dr Brian May.

Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers’ Union responded: “There is nothing new in this report; it repeats the same arguments on science, costs and the effectiveness of a badger cull in the fight against TB as we’ve heard before.” In a statement to the Farmers’ Guardian he added that it was “hugely disappointing” that the group would base its reasoning on a statement that culling was unpopular.

David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, commented: “The arguments Mr Kendall belittles are no less right because they are being repeated. Any amount of repetition seems to have had little effect on prejudices entrenched for 40 years despite ever-increasing understanding of this complex disease. To claim as Peter Kendall does that the report is based on popularity is to totally misrepresent a document that has 30 closely-argued pages.”

The Bow Group calls its paper “Common Sense and Bovine TB” and has included the work of leading bTB scientists who have been working on the disease with massive resources and knowledge for decades. Mr Williams said: “Despite this the NFU and its president still sweep aside the findings of eminent scientists.” The £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better” [3].

In its executive summary the Bow Group refers to 15 per cent of badgers carrying bovine TB, but later explains that this was the average prevalence among a small number of road kills [4]. The RBCT showed prevalence to be as low as 11.3 per cent in the high incidence areas studied [5].

Notes

[1] The Bow Group is the oldest and one of Britain’s most influential centre-right think-tanks. It develops policy, publishes research and stimulates debate within the Conservative Party. It has no corporate view, but represents all strands of conservative opinion. See: Bow Group urges Government to scrap badger cull plans.

[2] Common Sense and Bovine TB.

[3] Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Page 5: First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.

[4] Fera: Vaccination Q and A

[5] Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Table 4.15.

Contact

Jack Reedy
01564 783129
0775 173 1107

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