Friday, 4 June 2010

Badger culling blues

Hey all. I wanted to write a clever post about the new proposed badger cull in England (supposedly to control TB), and Caroline Spelman's (new Minister's) strange doublethink on the issue. On the one hand they want to appear to be dispassionate and science-based, even if the facts are 'unpalatable'. On the other hand they really want to kill badgers.

Anyway, I am too annoyed to write something good. So here is the gyst. There appears to be next to no evidence that culling of badgers will actually work - unless you pick a confined space and kill every last one. For ever. There is also some evidence from the Krebs report and some papers published in Nature that suggest that culling actually makes bovine TB worse, by causing badgers to disperse and migrate, spreading TB. In any case, it makes far less difference than farm hygiene and reductions in cattle transport.

I am also incensed by the government's assertions that the ban on fox hunting is 'unenforceable'. I am sure it is difficult to enforce, but they seem to have no problem hiring balaclava'd heavies to force their way onto private land, with police escorts, to conduct culling.

I was trying to think of a reason for all this, and why the Liberal Democrats are also going along. Sadly I came up with just one - pandering. The rural vote in the South West is crucial to both parties. It seems that might be explanation enough.

Some links

Independent Scientific Group on Cattle and TB concluded: ‘Badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain.’ (see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7166/full/450001b.html)..

Krebs Report (Randomised Badger Culling Trial) shows that culling can reduce TB in a small area, but increases it in surrounding areas:
http://veterinaryrecord.bvapublications.com/cgi/content/abstract/160/21/723

Review of science in Nature paper indicates culling is not a solution… http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v439/n7078/full/nature04454.html
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v426/n6968/full/nature02192.html

Badger culling is widespread in the Republic of Ireland (where badgers are extremely rare, but TB is worse). This cull has not helped lower the incidence of TB in cattle, and according to some sources the incidence has actually increased since the cull.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6653691.stm

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