Twenty-seven veterinary professionals have sent an open letter to Natural England concerning the science, ethics and probity of continuing with the badger cull as a means of controlling bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The letter, from vets and veterinary nurses, is addressed to Natural England chief scientist Tim Hill, the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC) and the Natural England board.

It lists 12 areas of growing concern, including the science “categorically” does not support widening the cull to new areas, poor results from Gloucester and Somerset, spiralling costs, a lack of veterinary and public support, evidence for the efficacy of badger vaccination and lack of a thorough disease risk analysis.

The signatories, mainly from southern-based veterinary practices, say they would appreciate the opportunity to open a line of communication with the scientific advisory council and Natural England board – and, if possible, would like to meet and discuss the scientific evidence and professional opinion that continues to accrue against the continuation and roll-out of culling.

The letter concludes: “We strongly request NESAC and the board take full account of the science, logistics, ethics and probity of any continued or extended culling of badgers, and examine the policy in the light of its lack of a science base, its ineffectiveness, its lack of humaneness, public opposition and spiralling costs.

“It is our view this policy does not represent an ethically sound, scientifically valid, or fiscally prudent method of controlling bTB. Natural England is the body the public looks to in order to ensure Government policy does not harm wildlife and wild spaces.

“It is incumbent on Natural England to fully consider the evidence before proceeding to endorse a failing policy, which will cause untold suffering to badgers and continuing hardship for dairy farmers by failing to tackle bTB.”

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