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Government Think Tank Condemns Badger Culling

27 March 2012

UK - The Bow Group (a government think tank) has unveiled a major paper urging the Government to reconsider plans to resume badger culling in England in autumn 2012, saying the culls, an attempt to control the spread of bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), are likely to be more costly and less practical to conduct than DEFRA believes.

Counter-intuitively, culling has also been proven to make bTB worse and Defra’s focus should be on vaccination instead. These are also the findings of Lord Krebs, architect of the huge badger culling programme conducted by the last Government.

It follows an announcement this week that the Welsh Assembly Government is scrapping plans to cull in favour of vaccination.

in the paper, with contributions from some of Britain’s leading TB scientists and a foreword by former Queen guitarist and vocal animal rights campaigner, Brian May, the paper finds the following:

  • The proposed culls are likely to be more expensive than the Government would hope, when additional policing, the resulting spread in bTB and the delay to other, more effective methods of reducing the disease are taken into account.


  • Culling is deeply unpopular – the Bow Group’s own market research confirms that 81 per cent of people are opposed to the plans.


  • Recent, large badger culling trials have demonstrated projected efficiency in reducing bTB in cattle of just 12-16 per cent (depending on the model) over nine years, meaning at least 84 per cent of the problem will remain.


  • Badger culling has been demonstrated to lead to perturbation – a social fracturing among badgers that leads to an increase in bTB outside the affected area.


  • Just 15 per cent of badgers carry bTB and the Bow Group believes that poor biosecurity plays a much greater role in bTB spread. Serious recent biosecurity lapses, whereby landowners have been re-tagging and transporting infected cattle, are of deep concern.

The group believes that a vaccination programme combined with improvements in biosecurity would be the most efficient way to minimise bTB spread and cost to the taxpayer.

Richard Mabey, Research Secretary of the Bow Group, said: “The Government’s policy is bad for farmers, bad for wildlife and bad for the taxpayer. Market research, commissioned by the Bow Group, shows that the issue will be costly for the Conservatives in political terms, not least in the marginal seats in which the culling trials are to be held."

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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