Letter: Badger cull issue is complex so check all the facts

John Mercer states the Government’s policy on badger culling is science-led when it is clearly not.

badger - stock

The last large science-led culling trials were the Random Badger Culling Trials. The final report from the Independent Scientific Group came to the following conclusions:

1. While badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.

2. Weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of the disease in all areas where TB occurs, and scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of the disease can be reversed, and contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.

John Mercer also states that this will lead to both healthy cattle and badgers. The aim is to shoot 70 per cent of badgers of which there will be no testing to check whether they have TB or not. How is this in any way or form scientific?

Bovine TB is a hugely complex disease to which there is no silver bullet, and people should be checking statements for accuracy before voicing them.

Chris Cooke

All Stretton

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Comments for: "Letter: Badger cull issue is complex so check all the facts"


Chris Cooke quotes from the well know conclusion of the rbct. What many people do not realise however is that Professor Bourne, who ran the ISG, makes it very clear that at the start of the trial he was directed by government that there would never be a large scale badger cull, irrespective of his findings.

With this clear instruction in mind badger culling was done for only 8-11 days a year in the winter, when badgers are most inactive.

The very low badger removal rate (a total of 20-60% per trial area over seven years according to DEFRA) inevitably did not reduce TB greatly within cull zones and actually made the problem worse outside cull zones as badgers were dispersed due to low clearance rates.

By contrast the Thornbury cull, were badgers were completely eliminated, reduced TB to zero and it stayed that way for 10 years after the cull stopped. Other culls at Steeple Leaze and Hartland's results were very similar.

We've tried cattle control measures for many years now and the only result is that more and more cattle are killed every year.

In areas where TB is at epidemic levels there is, unfortunately, no alternative to culling badgers.

There are badger vaccines but they don't cure badgers that already have TB and we know that a large number of the badger population has already been infected, compounding the situation further many of the setts are also infected.

In Wales a badger vaccine is being trialled but it costs £662 per badger per year.

An EU approved cattle vaccine is unlikley to be available before 2023, I hope it's earlier than this because as soon at is ready my order will be going in.

Dai Williams

Do you know what really gets me about this is that 1 badger can infect a whole herd of cows which then more often than not have to be destroyed. You don't hear anyone talking about these poor animals and the devastating effect that this has on the farmer and his livelihood.


Over 90% of transmissions are direct cattle-to-cattle. We need more concentrating on reducing this rather than drastic scapegoat solutions to reduce the 10% minority (which may be partly due to other wildlife besides badgers anyway).


Professor Donnelly of Imperial College, the deputy chairman of the rbct, analysed data from the trial and estimated that 49% of cattle TB infection came from badgers.

Of the badgers that were culled in the rbct 13% of them still tested positive for TB even though the test was delayed by a week.

By comparison 99.7% of cattle test clear for TB, the remainder are slaughtered as a precaution. Post mortems show most were not infected with TB.


The government's strategy is purely political and utter anti-science. They are ignoring the experts, the evidence and previous trials to focus purely on short-term political gain without care about eradicating the disease.

The result will be in 10 years time despite culling bTB will be just as bad as ever, but the government know their failure will have only gained, not lost, votes. Morality matters not when votes are involved!

Shropshire Lad

You quote some intresting facts, as for vote winning this was the Labour policy . Again cattle are tested and badgers are not , 16% is the figure often quoted as minimum but those involved say it will be triple that . Scapegoating is what the anti cull lobby do best to protect the farmyard invader but no other wildlife are as intrusive as the badger .


"Professor Bourne, who ran the ISG, makes it very clear that at the start of the trial he was directed by government that there would never be a large scale badger cull, irrespective of his findings."

He also has very publicly made many statements since to the effect that he does not support the current Government plans for a badger cull, and that it won't work.

There never will be a large scale badger cull, the previous Government was absolutely right. It is morally and ethically wrong, to kill native british wildlife on a large scale simply to attempt, according to the current Government scientists, to reduce outbreaks of bTB in cattle by 11%. The previous Government wasn't so stupid as this one is, in thinking that it would be acceptable to wipe out almost all badgers in England for such a negligible return.


Are you confusing Krebs with Bourne , as for your comments on the last government (who privately admitted the need for a cull) they were persuaded by large donations by animal organisations . Where did you read that all badgers are to be "wiped out" , what a great pr line from Team Badger. Would you answer the question as to why Team Badger has it's web page address based in Australia where it is not subject to Brittish law. I assume it's so they can publicly name people they see as opponents to their cause with no shame or retribution . Names and contact details of MP's who voted with the party over a cull (These are on line from the web site) will help those intent on intimidation . Morally and ethically wrong to kill 30,000 cattle for no results and yet 5000 badgers has you all emotive and pious. This cull needs to go ahead to see if it can work if it does not work then an alternative will be sought but there should be no interference to try and sway the results . Time is running out because the current situation will not go on with cattle only measures and vaccine has no proof before that is promoted as the way forward ( wont cure an infected badger)

"thinking that it would be acceptable to wipe out almost all badgers in England"

Where did you get that one from then? From the very outset it was only ever proposed to cull in areas where TB is endemic and even in the two pilot culls about 25% of the land is not being culled.

I think you should check your statement for accuracy!

Charles Henry

Badgers and bovine TB. The indisputable evidence.


Charles Henry

'Science' is the word most banded around by the 'badgerists', but the real science of this genus of pathogenic bacterium is the thing that they have the least understanding or knowledge of.

The Krebs trials that are continually used as evidence were the most unscientific exercise in political sophistry that have ever been committed on an electorate, and probably the most expensive.