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Defra challenged to produce sound TB science
14/03/06

Report available online here

bovine tb badger culling

The Badger Trust welcomes the latest report from MPs into bovine TB and publishes humiliating evidence which demonstrates that Defra's vets have "absolutely no idea" about how a badger killing policy might work in practice.

Defra was today challenged by MPs to publish the scientific evidence underpinning the badger killing options proposed in the Government's current consultation document on the control of bovine TB in cattle.

The challenge comes from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(EFRA) Committee. The Committee questions the validity of the consultation exercise and reveals that Ben Bradshaw, animal welfare Minister, asked key questions of his scientific advisors six weeks after the consultation began.

Responding to the EFRA Committee's report, Badger Trust spokesman Trevor Lawson commented:

"The EFRA Committee has cut to the heart of the problem with Defra's
consultation: the Government has spent millions on scientific research into the badger question and then allowed Defra's vets to simply ignore the results. It is painfully apparent that the key lesson of foot and mouth disease - to base policy on sound science - has not been learned.

"The disastrous handling of this consultation raises fundamental questions about the quality of strategic thinking in Defra and the ability of its senior vets to grasp and then utilise critically- important scientific evidence."

Today, the Badger Trust reveals the depth of ignorance in Defra, by publishing a statement made at a focus group exercise that took place last week. The exercise, involving "Citizens Panels" organised by consultancy Opinion Leader Research, presented members of the public with information from Defra about its badger culling proposals.

A list of Frequently Asked Questions contains the following statement:

"19. Are you planning to get rid of badgers from whole areas of the country?
"No. The aim of a cull would be to reduce the badger population so as to reduce the likelihood of contact between cattle and badgers and not to get rid of all badgers. The numbers killed will depend on the area and the population of badgers in that area. We would not be seeking to remove a specific number."

Trevor Lawson commented: "Two key conclusions can be drawn from this extraordinarily vague statement. First, this makes it clear that the extermination of badgers would be endless, because this strategy of population reduction has no end-game or exit strategy.

"Second, Defra's vets clearly have absolutely no idea about how many badgers would need to be killed in order to deliver a satisfactory benefit. Moreover, they would not be able to distinguish between the effect of killing badgers and the benefits of better TB testing for cattle. The vets are simply clueless and from a scientific standpoint, this policy proposal is a gross humiliation for Defra."

link RABDF call for humane badger culling
link Cattle farmers in TB damaged area must support badger cull
link Badger Trust condemns pre-movement TB testing delays

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