Several scientists and former Government advisors have written an open letter to Defra urging ministers to reconsider the decision to proceed with a third year of badger culling.

Under fire: Government plans to extend badger cull.

Signatories include Ranald Munro, chairman of the independent expert panel commissioned by Defra to assess the first year of pilot culling; Lord Krebs, who carried out the major report into tuberculosis in cattle and badgers; and John Bourne, who oversaw the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).


In their letter, the experts express disappointment at the decision to continue with a third year of culling and expanding it to include Dorset. They note the first two years of culling “failed to meet predetermined criteria for effectiveness or humaneness” and 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”.

Professor Bourne said: “It is disappointing but predictable that Defra continues 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 fails 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.”

Breath-taking arrogance

Alastair MacMillan, Humane Society International UK’s veterinary advisor, is another signatory. He said: “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 [environment secretary] 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.”

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