Due to the controversy surrounding the two recent badger cull trials, and potentially the widespread use of badger culling as a bovine TB control measure, this week we interviewed four guests from different backgrounds to find out the truth behind the badger cull: Harry Martin, a Zoology student, studied the ecology of badgers during his placement year. Kat Finch, a student who’s family in the cattle farming industry, and Stephanie Landymore, a Manchester Zoology graduate and working now at RSPB, give their personal opinions on the badger cull. Dr Kieron Flanagan, a lecturer is Science and Technology Policy and the Manchester Business School, gives us insight into the Government’s decision-making process in this controversial trial.
As many of you may know and may be following with a close eye, the Government has decided to implement a badger cull as a measure to control TB outbreaks in cattle. Bovine tuberculosis is a huge problem for farmers, with over 38,000 cattle having to be slaughtered as a result of the disease. However, many key scientists have been surprised at the decision to cull badgers following the Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. The report stated that ‘badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively, or cost effectively, to the control of cattle TB in Britain’ and recommended ‘priority should be given to developing policies based on more rigorous application of control measures to cattle, in the absence of badger culling’.
The Government set out two pilot areas in the South-west of England to assess the safeness, the effectiveness and the humaneness of the new proposed method in removing at least 70% of the badger population in no more than six consecutive weeks. We discuss with Harry why the badger cull trials have met such fierce opposition by scientists and politicians. The two trials recently came to an end in Somerset and then rather abruptly in Gloucestershire. Both pilot culls failed to meet their 70% culling targets, despite both sites being granted extensions on the six week period.
This has been widely reported in the news, with scientists such as Lord Krebs, a scientific expert involved in the UK Randomised Badger Culling Trial, describing the trials as a ‘complete fiasco’. We discuss with Harry, Kat and Stephanie how the media has portrayed the badger cull trials, and how accessible the scientific information is to both the general public and farmers. Finally we discuss with Dr Kieron Flanagan how science influences policy making and the decision-making process in Government on controversial issues like the current badger cull trials.
If the badger cull trials are deemed a success in the new year by an Independent Panel of Experts, the cull will be rolled out to wider areas.