Leading scientist urges government to consider badger cull alternatives

The badger cull is less effective at tackling bovine tuberculosis (TB) than more frequent testing of cattle, says a leading Professor of Ecology who has asked the government to meet him to discuss his latest findings.

11th September 2015
©Mark Bowen/Gettyimages.co.uk

A top scientist has warned the government against extending the badger cull into more parts of England, finding that the Welsh government’s approach of increased cattle TB testing instead proves more effective.

In an exclusive interview with Countryfile Magazine, Professor Matthew Evans, Head of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London also said he “would welcome the opportunity to meet with" the government to discuss his and Dr Aristides Moustakas’ findings.

Asked whether the government’s course may be affected by pressure from the National Farmers’ Union, which has called for the cull to be extended, Evans said: “While I’m sure political pressures are inevitable it would be disappointing if those pressures stopped cheaper and more effective policies being introduced.”

On Thursday 10 September, the Farming Minister told the House of Commons that the cull, which recently got underway in Dorset, could be rolled out in more counties, including Hertfordshire and part of Devon. George Eustice said there are "many other interested parties which I’m sure can be considered in future years.”

Evans, however, claims it “is a no-brainer" that the government should instead opt for more cattle testing. "It is clear that testing cattle frequently is the most effective way of reducing bovine TB. Farmers and policymakers should not ignore this evidence which is based on the government’s data.”

Speaking to Countryfile Magazine, he said: “Our earlier work showed theoretically that testing cattle frequently is a more effective strategy than culling badgers. This latest paper demonstrates that there is a difference between Wales and the English regions in the trends over time of TB in the cattle herd”.

Evans joins three senior scientists who have carried out two collective decades of government research in urging a government rethink. Professor John Bourne, Professor Lord Krebs and Professor Ranald Munro last week expressed their disappointment at the cull's extension to Dorset. Munro formerly chaired the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' independent expert panel on the badger cull.

The Labour-run administration in Wales scrapped its plans for culling in favour of vaccination in March 2012.

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