Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Liberal Democrats to split on badger cull when we should oppose it

I am disappointed by the government's decision to go ahead with a cull of badgers in an attempt to combat bovine TB. I am even more disappointed of the Liberal Democrat MPs being split on the issue in an attempt to placate their individual voters.

Andrew George, to his credit, has come out against the plans, but I suspect in general the overall picture will be as painted by ePolitix.com:
Rural Lib Dems MPs like Tim Farron support a cull, while urban Lib Dems such as Chris Huhne and Greg Mulholland will be opposed.
Desmond Carrington, writing on the Guardian Environment Blog, sets out some of the science that makes the case for a cull unconvincing Ieven if he can't spell "perturbation"):
But the coalition government is on stickier ground when it comes to the science: it pledged a "science-led" approach. First, even after the pilot studies of free shooting, there will still be no scientific evidence that such culling reduces TB, given that the "peturbation" effects will not be measured.

Peturbation is the disruption by culling of badgers' social groups which is known to lead to higher TB rates in surrounding areas. Spelman's chief scientific adviser, Professor Bob Watson, acknowledged this, telling me it was an "expert judgement" that the peturbation effects would be no worse than with other killing methods. That's opinion not science, in my view. And don't forget that all of the authors of the 10-year trial instigated by Lord John Krebs think culling is an ineffective method of tackling TB.

The other science problem is that Spelman had already all but killed plan B: vaccination. She said this was the solution everyone wanted, but had already cancelled five of the six vaccination trials set up by the previous government. The last government said an oral vaccine for badgers would be available by 2015: this government says they now don't know when - or even if - one will be ready. I find that hard to swallow when a paper has been published showing success in Ireland.
There are resources for fighting the cull on the RSPCA and Badger Trust sites.


Nick von Westenholz said...

In the interests of balance, your readers may also be interested to see resources on why farmers believe a cull is needed here: http://www.tbfreeengland.co.uk

Its also worth pointing out that the trials that were cancelled were not trials of the vaccine, but of the mechanisms for administering the vaccine. So they would not have made any headway in proving the efficacy of the vacccine per se. Spending on that continues.

Jonathan Calder said...


Thanks for the link.

My readers may also be interested to know that you are a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union.

Nick von Westenholz said...

I may be doing you a disservice (and sorry, only just seen your comment), but your tenor makes it sound as if I've been somewhat circumspect about admitting my job. Notwithstanding whether people need to "declare an interest" every time they comment on a blog, nor that it's pretty explicit from my comment where I'm coming from, you yourself will know it takes about 2 seconds on Google to find I work for the NFU. If I was in any way keen to hide this, I would have used a pseudonym.

It of course doesn't detract from the simple point I wanted to make about balance.