Azara Blog: Badger cull is allegedly not cost-effective

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Date published: 2007/06/18

The BBC says:

Culling badgers is unlikely to be a cost-effective way of controlling cattle tuberculosis, scientists advising the government have concluded.

Farmers say the spread of cattle TB by badgers is destroying the industry and that culling would control it.

But independent government advisers said culling would have to be so extensive it would be uneconomical.

Conservationists suggest tighter restrictions on cattle movements could help control the disease's spread.

The government is currently considering whether to introduce a cull.

It set up the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) to examine the links between TB in cattle and the spread of badgers in the countryside.

ISG chairman Professor John Bourne told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "One has to recognise that what we are dealing with is primarily a disease of cattle, although badgers in hot spot areas do make a significant contribution."

The dilemma for farmers and ministers is that there was no sustainable way of treating the badger issue, he said.
A consultation mounted recently by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) suggested public opinion is firmly against a cull.

Past research has shown that culling is associated with increased TB in the badgers; areas which had received four culls saw a doubling of the rate.

It appears that badgers move more freely and more widely in culled areas thereby increasing contact with each other.

The data comes from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, sometimes known as the Krebs trial after Sir John Krebs, the government scientist who instigated it.

The government is in a no-win situation here. And so it is clever that they are claiming that a cull is not cost-effective, because that plays to both sides (the farmers because the government is saying that a cull could work, and the so-called conservationists because a cull will not happen). From the evidence so far, it definitely seems like a cull is a bad idea. Hopefully another, scientific, way forward will be found.

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