Natural England have confirmed that they will not consider any new scientific evidence before rubber-stamping new authorizations to cull badgers.

In response to a detailed 12-point scientific challenge from 27 veterinary professionals, which had urged Natural England to examine the science, ethics and probity of badger culling before making the decision to roll out more culls, the acting Chief Executive of Natural England, Guy Thompson, replied:

“We would like to take this opportunity to underline Natural England’s role in the Government’s bTB eradication strategy, which is to support it through the issuing and administering of licences to cull and vaccinate badgers. In carrying out this licensing work we have regard to guidance from Government, which is derived from its bTB and badger control policy and supplementary evidence-based advice from Defra's Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.”

He added: “Enquiries relating to the Government’s policy, the efficacy of the cull and future roll- out should be directed to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”

The first author of the letter from veterinary professionals, Dr Iain McGill, said: “Natural England are behaving like Pontius Pilate - washing their hands of their responsibilities whilst badgers are set to be crucified. NE have directed us towards Defra and the Chief Veterinary Officer for discussion of ‘evidence-based’ material, but we have repeatedly challenged the Chief Veterinary Officer and those vets within the profession who support badger culling, to a public debate. This offer still stands, but we quite understand the reluctance of opponents to debate with us in public, given the amount of scientific evidence now accumulating in our favour.”

“I am disappointed that Natural England have not answered any of our 12 concerns, and I have replied to Guy Thompson at Natural England in respect of one of my most serious concerns, requesting sight of the Disease Risk Analysis for the pilot badger culls, which should have been completed before the project commenced, as per recommendations by the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Our group will also contact Defra in order to further discuss our evidence-based concerns as he suggests.”

Iain McGill added: “In the absence of either a formal Disease Risk Analysis or an environmental impact assessment, it is hard to see how Natural England can legally issue badger cull licences at the current time. There are so many questions hanging over this policy, not only from our veterinary group, but also from the threat of legal action by Save Me, that the Government really would be better off cutting their losses and implementing alternatives. We stand ready to assist Government or other interested parties in formulating ethical, evidence-based and efficacious dairy policy, which would protect industry, cattle, wildlife and consumers.”

Caroline Lucas MP said: “It’s time for the Government to end the cruel, inhumane and wasteful badger cull. There needs to be investment in evidence-based strategies to tackle bovine TB – including vaccination and improved biosecurity. But instead of exploring these alternatives, and finding humane and effective solutions, millions of pounds have been wasted and we are no further forward in helping farmers. I hope this legal challenge brings an end to the cull and marks the start of serious exploration of better alternatives. ”



Notes for Editors: References
1. Attached: Open Letter sent to Natural England by 27 Veterinary Professionals

on Aug 12 2015, and copied to Nigel Gibbens (CVO), the President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the Editors of Veterinary Record and Veterinary Times, and the BVA.
2. Attached: IOE & IUCN Guidelines on Disease Risk Analysis.

This press release issued by Vets and Vet Nurses Against the Badger Cull

Dr Iain McGill, Veterinary Surgeon, BSc (Hons), BVetMed, MRCVS Director VAVNABC, Lead author VATBC
Mob : 07984623159 Email:
[email protected] 

Open letter to: Natural England Chief Scientist Professor Tim Hill The Natural England Science Advisory Council (or equivalent)