The government has just published an independent review of culls to control bovine TB (bTB). And it appears to confirm what opponents of the badger cull have been saying all along.
We realise that wildlife does have a role in this disease, but it’s wrong to put all the blame on wildlife and to use this as an excuse to not make hard decisions in industry, which is going to cost the industry money.
The Bovine TB Strategy Review, published on 13 November, finds killing badgers reduces herd ‘breakdown‘ by about 15%. But it also increases perturbation – or spread to non-infected areas. Speaking to Farming Today, Godfray explained:
That isn’t all one needs to know, because whether the disease spreads… is a complex, non-linear process. And so 15% could make little difference, or it could make quite a bit of difference.
Instead, the review spotlights farming practices as key to ending bTB. It criticises farmers and ministers for poor use of basic measures, saying “current governance arrangements poorly serve bovine TB control”. These include secure fencing and separating cattle herds. Godfray also aired concerns about the moving and trading of cattle.
In addition to these practical improvements, the report makes a number of other recommendations. Development of vaccinations should be accelerated, for example. And it suggests an independent body for disease control could be set up to take on work currently done by Natural England, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and others.
‘Valuable, impartial summary’
Bovine TB Strategy Review‘s findings aren’t based on the current badger cull. Godfray was “explicitly asked” not to review current data. The report is based on results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) carried out between 1998 and 2006. Professor John Krebs, who commissioned the RBCT, said told the Guardian that:
The report is a valuable, impartial summary of the current evidence. Unless the government and the farming industry now tackle [biosecurity, trading of infected cattle and testing], TB will not be eradicated or controlled.
Farming minister George Eustice said the review is “welcome” and that ministers will consider the findings before publishing the current cull’s next steps.
The real cost of the cull
Past studies have mirrored Bovine TB Strategy Review‘s findings. A 2016 field study in Cornwall, for example, gained similar results. And opponents of the cull have been calling for vaccinations and better farm controls for years. More recently, the possibility of hunting hounds spreading bTB has become known.
An estimated £40m has been spent on killing badgers since the cull began in 2013. That equates to roughly £1,000 per badger. Meanwhile, policing costs have been astronomical. In Cheshire alone, the police operation cost nearly £1m in 2017. Alternatively, a recent vaccination trial in Derbyshire has cost just £82 per badger and is unlikely to face disruption from opponents.
Evidence and data have consistently shown the badger cull is not a sensible option. Not only from the point of view of caring about Britain’s wildlife and protected species, but also for its massive drain on the taxpayer. Godfray’s review once again reinforces the message that the badger cull must end.
– Read about the Badger Trust’s vaccination project.
– Follow Rosie Woodroffe, who led the RBCT and provides excellent insight into the current cull.
Featured image via Ashley Buttle/Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?