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September 3, 2015

Top Experts – Bateson, Krebs, Bourne, Munro – Call on DEFRA to Immediately End the Inhumane & Ineffective Badger Cull

Humane Society International/UK

  • The government’s badger culling policy continues to be opposed by the majority of scientific experts. FLPA/Alamy

LONDON — Leading wildlife, veterinary and livestock experts – including top scientists previously employed to advise the Government – have written an open letter to DEFRA urging Ministers to immediately reconsider the decision to proceed with a third year of badger culling. Signatories include Professor Ranald Munro, chair of the Independent Expert Panel commissioned by DEFRA to assess the first year of pilot culling, Professor Lord Krebs, who carried out the major report into tuberculosis in cattle and badgers, and Professor John Bourne who oversaw the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

In their letter, the experts express their disappointment at the Government’s decision to continue with a third year of badger culling, including rolling out the cull to the new area of Dorset. They note that the first two years of culling “failed to meet predetermined criteria for effectiveness or humaneness” and that the “government’s badger culling policy continues to be opposed by the majority of scientific experts, and remains deeply unpopular with a large section of the public”.

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One of the esteemed signatories, Professor John Bourne, former chair of the Independent Scientific Group set up to supervise the RBCT, said: "It is disappointing but predictable that Defra continue to either ignore, cherry pick or purposefully misinterpret the science. While cattle control measures have been strengthened they are still inadequate which emphasises the fact that Defra fail to fully appreciate that this is primarily an infectious disease of cattle and that the tuberculin test is very insensitive. As a consequence large numbers of infected cattle remain undiagnosed and perpetuate the disease in infected herds as well as spreading the disease to other cattle herds and wildlife."

Humane Society International/UK’s veterinary advisor, Professor Alastair MacMillan, is another signatory. MacMillan, who previously worked at DEFRA studying bovine tuberculosis, commented:  “The government claims to make policy based on evidence, and yet it shows breath-taking arrogance in completely ignoring the results of its own trials and persisting with a badger cull policy condemned by almost unanimous scientific opinion. Experts agree and the verdict is in: a cull of up to 2,038 badgers in the coming weeks would be inhumane, ineffective and indefensible. Liz Truss cuts an increasingly lonely figure, championing a doomed cull despite calls from eminent scientists and vets to stop killing badgers and concentrate instead on the real solutions to bovine TB, which include stricter cattle movement controls, improved testing and heightened on-farm biosecurity. It's long overdue that the government listens to science and reason and ends the badger cull.”

Mark Jones, a wildlife vet and Programmes Manager at the Born Free Foundation, also a signatory to the letter, reflected: "Badgers are a protected species with their own Act of Parliament. The granting of licenses for contractors to shoot them is no small matter, and the bar should be set extremely high. The government's claim that its culling programme will significantly reduce bovine TB in cattle is not supported by the available scientific evidence, and the culls have failed to meet criteria for efficacy and humaneness established by DEFRA's own Independent Expert Panel. These culls have no basis in evidence and should be immediately abandoned.

ENDS

Media Contacts:

Shely Bryan, Campaigns Director, Humane Society International/UK:
Telephone: +44 (0) 7710 148 957 Email: sbryan@hsi.org

Wendy Higgins, Communications Director, Humane Society International/UK:
Telephone: +44 (0) 7989 972 423 Email: whiggins@hsi.org

Notes:

Full list of signatories:

  • Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Lord Krebs Kt FRS, University of Oxford
  • Professor John Bourne CBE MRCVS, former Chairman, Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB
  • Professor Ranald Munro MRCVS, Chairman, Independent Expert Panel on Badger cull pilots
  • Professor Claudio Sillero, University of Oxford
  • Professor Sheila Crispin FRCVS, Cumbria
  • Professor Alastair MacMillan MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor to Humane Society International/UK
  • Dr Tony Sainsbury MRCVS, Zoological Society of London
  • Dr Chris Cheeseman, Badger ecologist, Gloucestershire
  • Dr Mark Jones MRCVS, Policy Manager, Born Free Foundation
  • Jan Bayley, Animal Welfare Group, Gloucestershire
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