Killing badgers is not necessary to eradicate bovine TB (bTB), according to the results of a debate about the badger cull, which brought opposing sides of the argument – and a TV expert – together for the first time.

The University of Bristol debate featured TV wildlife expert Simon King, Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, Adam Quinney, of the National Farmers’ Union and Lewis Thomas, of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management.

Audience members voted against the cull by 87% to 13%.  
Student Ben Eagle, who organised the event, said: ”This debate was born from a desire to bring those on both sides together, to look for consensus (if possible) and to encourage debate within the academic community.

“Personally, as a conservationist, an environmentalist and a farmer’s son, I sympathised with both viewpoints on the ‘to cull or not to cull’ front and I wanted to bring those at the forefront of the debate together, to convince me towards a particular view.

“I am a believer in consensus but struggle to see this being reached when it comes to the badger cull debate.

“TB is out of control and for the sake of the badgers, the cattle and the farmers we need to come up with a solution. In order to confirm what that solution will be we must rely on objectivity and the most up to date scientific knowledge, whatever that may show, and not be swayed by emotion or our own personal background.”  

After the debate, Mr Dyer said: “This shows that when both sides are able to present their arguments on an equal footing, the result is clear people do not think badgers should be culled.

“The pro-cull argument is based on the belief bTB can only be beaten by killing badgers, but we have shown this isn’t true.

“The problem is among the cattle, which are often sick and spreading disease even when they have been passed as ‘clean’ by testing. So with a better testing regime, better biosecurity and more controlled movements, we can defeat this awful disease without having to slaughter innocent badgers.

“I would like to thank Adam Quinney and Lewis Thomas for attending the event and I hope this is a step forward in the battle against TB.

“It often feels wildlife organisations and the farmers are polar opposites on this issue, which to some extent is true. But the real enemy is bTB – so in this case, let’s hope the enemy of our enemy can become our friend, so we can work together and overcome bTB.”

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