Scientific opinion remains firmly that culling badgers can have no meaningful impact on the control of TB in cattle.
This is being proved every day as the impact of better testing and movement controls is demonstrating five years of continuous reductions in the disease. These figures highlight greater reductions in key areas where culling is not taking place over areas where it is. The most impressive reductions are in Wales where badgers are vaccinated instead of culling.
In another significant blow to the government, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has now added its voice to that of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in condemning free-shooting as inhumane and has withdrawn its support in favour of a targeted cull. Despite this, the government and farming lobby have refused all requests to test badgers for TB before or even after culling, which means the cull cannot possibly be considered targeted nor can it’s results be scientifically analysed. The cull remains a crude, numbers based exercise designed to kill badgers regardless of infection based on estimates extrapolated from individual badger experiments conducted over a decade ago. It is therefore a species eradication policy rather than a disease control policy.
The cost of implementing the badger culls is now a major concern in an era of government imposed austerity. The two pilot culls have failed even to meet their basic targets but have cost millions of pounds to the taxpayer, with no measurable impact on cattle TB. Any attempt to roll the cull out to new areas will present an unsustainably expensive drain on public finances. Alternatives to culling such as vaccination have proved significantly cheaper and more effective in the long term, however the main focus of the fight against bovine TB has, and should continue to be, rigorously applied cattle testing and control measures. Unlike culling, these are proven to work.