Article

Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science, Policy and Politics

Abstract

Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is the most economically important animal health policy issue in Britain. The problem of what to do about badgers has plagued successive governments since a dead badger was discovered with bovine TB in 1971. Successive Labour governments (1997–2010) oversaw the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) from 1998 to 2006. Despite the RBCT recommendation against culling, the 2010–2015 Coalition government implemented pilot badger culls. This paper provides an account of the evolution of bovine TB and badger control policy, focusing on the 1997–2010 Labour, the 2010–2015 Coalition and the 2015-present Conservative governments. Interviews with bovine TB policy stakeholders supplement discussion of the development of bovine TB policy. The paper discusses the science and politics of bovine TB policy, in which there are different badger control policies in Westminster, Welsh and Scottish governments. Badger control is a highly polarised issue, and the Coalition and Conservative governments have been heavily criticised for a culling policy opposed by the independent scientific community. Recent governments have defended badger culling on the basis of veterinary advice and experience in countries such as New Zealand. The paper concludes with two key recommendations to inform controversial animal health and welfare policy issues such as bovine TB. First, mandatory Animal Welfare Impact Assessment provides objective data on the impacts of policy options on cows and badgers. Second, robust ethical analysis, conducted by independent experts using established moral frameworks, should be applied to animal health and welfare issues for the benefit of decision makers.
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain:
Science, Policy and Politics
Steven P. McCulloch
1
Michael J. Reiss
2
Accepted: 31 July 2017 / Published online: 24 August 2017
The Author(s) 2017. This article is an open access publication
Abstract Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is the most economically important
animal health policy issue in Britain. The problem of what to do about badgers has
plagued successive governments since a dead badger was discovered with bovine
TB in 1971. Successive Labour governments (1997–2010) oversaw the Randomised
Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) from 1998 to 2006. Despite the RBCT recommen-
dation against culling, the 2010–2015 Coalition government implemented pilot
badger culls. This paper provides an account of the evolution of bovine TB and
badger control policy, focusing on the 1997–2010 Labour, the 2010–2015 Coalition
and the 2015-present Conservative governments. Interviews with bovine TB policy
stakeholders supplement discussion of the development of bovine TB policy. The
paper discusses the science and politics of bovine TB policy, in which there are
different badger control policies in Westminster, Welsh and Scottish governments.
Badger control is a highly polarised issue, and the Coalition and Conservative
governments have been heavily criticised for a culling policy opposed by the
independent scientific community. Recent governments have defended badger
culling on the basis of veterinary advice and experience in countries such as New
Zealand. The paper concludes with two key recommendations to inform contro-
versial animal health and welfare policy issues such as bovine TB. First, mandatory
Animal Welfare Impact Assessment provides objective data on the impacts of
policy options on cows and badgers. Second, robust ethical analysis, conducted by
&Michael J. Reiss
m.reiss@ucl.ac.uk
Steven P. McCulloch
Steven.McCulloch@winchester.ac.uk
1
University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK
2
UCL Institute of Education, University College London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL,
UK
123
J Agric Environ Ethics (2017) 30:469–484
DOI 10.1007/s10806-017-9686-3
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
independent experts using established moral frameworks, should be applied to
animal health and welfare issues for the benefit of decision makers.
Keywords Animal health and welfare policy Animal Welfare Impact
Assessment (AWIA) Badger culling Badger vaccination Bovine
tuberculosis Ethical analysis
Introduction
Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is the most important animal health and welfare
policy issue in Britain. This paper provides an overview of the science, policy and
politics of bovine TB in Britain, with a focus on the highly controversial issue of
badger culling. The first part of the paper documents the interviewing methodology
used to inform discussion in this and related papers (McCulloch and Reiss
2017a,b,c,d). The second part of the paper provides a chronological overview of
bovine TB policy and the issue of badger culling. The third part of the paper briefly
discusses how the contested scientific evidence base, plural values and political
factors influence bovine TB policy. In the final part of the paper, a case is made for
the inclusion of Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA) and ethical analysis to
inform animal health and welfare policy such as bovine TB and badger control.
Animal Health and Welfare Policy Interviews
As part of the research undertaken for this paper, the first author conducted semi-
structured interviews with animal health and welfare policy actors. The interviews
were conducted between 2012 and 2013. Seventeen individuals were interviewed.
Interviewees were primarily selected based on their roles giving them knowledge of
the animal health and welfare policy process. Interviewees were given the option of
whether to be identified or to remain anonymous. Hence, in the quotations from
transcripts in this paper, some actors are identified, whereas others are labelled with
reference to their professional role and affiliation. Interviewees include a former
government minister, a retired Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra) civil servant, an Animal Health and Welfare Board of England (AHWBE)
1
member, a former President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), a
National Farmers Union (NFU) TB policy official and Professor John Bourne, the
Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG), which conducted the Randomised
Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). Interviews, which were digitally audio-recorded,
lasted for up to three hours (an hour typically) and the material was transcribed and
thematically coded for analysis. The interviews covered a range of issues related to
the broader project on animal health and welfare policy with discussion of bovine
TB one part of the interview.
1
The Animal Health and Welfare Board of England is the principal advisory body to Defra on strategic
issues relating to health and welfare.
470 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
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Bovine Tuberculosis
Bovine TB is a notifiable zoonotic disease
2
of cows caused by the bacterium
Mycobacterium bovis. In 1934, 40% of dairy cows in Britain were infected with
bovine TB and at least 0.5% of these produced tuberculous milk. Bovine TB was
estimated to cause 2500 human deaths and 50,000 new cases arose each year
(Reynolds 2006). Up to 30% of cattle in Britain died from bovine TB in the 1930s
(Grant 2009). The pasteurisation of milk, which began in 1935, has effectively
prevented transmission of M. bovis to humans, although transmission is still possible
by aerosol spread or by consumption of unpasteurised milk (Defra 2014b).
Early Government Policy
The British government encouraged voluntary eradication of bovine TB as early as
1923. In 1935, a national programme of attesting herds to be free of disease began.
This became a compulsory eradication scheme in 1950 (Grant 2009). This
scheme involved testing cattle for bovine TB and slaughtering those which reacted
to the test. The herd was considered as the infectious unit, which resulted in a
number of whole herds being slaughtered [John Bourne, Chair ISG]. Movement
restrictions were put in place on herds which suffered reactors. To achieve attested
status, a herd had to pass three consecutive tuberculin tests. Attested herds could
only buy in cattle from other attested herds. Attested herds also had to demonstrate
biosecurity measures.
In 1960 the whole of Britain had become an attested area and in that decade it
was widely believed that bovine TB had been brought under control (Grant 2009).
Due to the improving situation, herd testing frequency was relaxed and in 1979 less
than 0.5% of the national herd was infected. However, these herds were
geographically concentrated in a few small pockets in the south west (Defra
2014b). With the lifting of restrictions, these areas were never cleared of disease and
today remain as hotspots of the disease in cattle [John Bourne, Chair ISG].
McEldowney et al. (2013) report how the chief veterinarian at the time claimed the
end of attestation would result in an increase in bovine TB. When the attested
scheme was lifted, the incidence of bovine TB did indeed subsequently increase.
Bourne claimed that the ending of the attested herd scheme, together with a move to
regard the individual animal and not the herd as the infectious unit, led to resurgence
of the disease [John Bourne, Chair ISG]. Godfray et al. (2013) report a meta-analysis
study that found the tuberculin skin test has only a 49% sensitivity at herd-level. This
would mean that the tuberculin skin test misses around half of infected herds.
Bovine TB and Badgers
In 1971, a dead badger found in Gloucestershire was found to be infected with M.
bovis. The discovery of bovine TB in badgers led to badger culling commencing in
2
A notifiable disease is one which must be reported to regulatory authorities by law. A zoonotic disease
is one which is transmissible from animals to humans.
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science471
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1973. Initially, licences to kill badgers were issued to farmers under the Badgers Act
1973. The badgers were killed either by cage-trapping and shooting or by free-
shooting. In part due to concerns about the welfare of badgers being shot by farmers,
the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming (MAFF)
3
took over the role of
culling in 1975. MAFF culled the badgers by gassing setts with hydrogen cyanide,
under a provision in the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975
(Spencer 2011). Further concerns about the welfare of badgers led to the first of a
number of reviews on bovine TB and badgers. The following discussion of the
Zuckerman and Dunnet reviews is informed by Spencer (2011, p. 93).
A review by Lord Zuckerman found that badgers were a reservoir of infection
and proposed a ‘clean ring’ strategy (Zuckerman 1980). The clean ring strategy
involved sampling badgers around infected farms and culling a whole sett if badgers
tested positive. Further adjacent setts would then be tested and culled if positive
until no further M. bovis-infected badgers were found. The process would continue
for six months to maintain a ‘clean ring’ around the farm.
The Dunnet report was the follow up review of Zuckerman’s clean ring strategy
(Dunnet et al. 1986). Dunnet et al. found that the incidence of bovine TB across
Great Britain had reduced whether or not badgers had been culled in the area.
Furthermore, the costs of the clean ring strategy were considered to be
unsustainable. For these reasons, an interim strategy was proposed. The interim
strategy involved farmers taking biosecurity measures to reduce the potential for
cattle-to-badger contact. Additionally, badgers were culled where it was reasonably
suspected that herd breakdowns were caused by badgers. The culling was confined
to the farmer’s own land and the infected herd. Despite the intentions of the interim
strategy to be a short term policy, it continued from 1986 to 1997, in part because of
MAFF’s focus on BSE.
Professor Sir John Krebs
4
chaired the third government-commissioned review
into bovine TB (Krebs et al. 1997). The Krebs report found badgers to be a
‘significant source of infection in cattle’’ but said that the evidence was ‘‘indirect’
as it consisted of correlations and not cause and effect (Krebs et al. 1997, p. 6). The
Krebs report recommended an experimental trial to quantify the impact of badger
culling on bovine TB.
The RBCT, the King Review and Hilary Benn’s Decision
The government appointed Professor John Bourne to Chair the Independent Science
Group (ISG), which designed and conducted the trial proposed by Krebs. The
Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) began in 1998 and ran until 2006, being
interrupted in 2001 by the foot and mouth epidemic. The RBCT was conducted in
areas of high incidence of bovine TB. The trial consisted of ten sets of ‘triplets’,
each composed of a proactive-culling area, a reactive-culling area and a survey-only
area. Reactive culling was abandoned early in the trial as it was found to increase,
3
MAFF was dissolved and replaced by Defra in 2011, in part due to failings and perceived conflicts of
interests that arose during the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) inquiry.
4
Professor Krebs has since been appointed to the House of Lords.
472 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
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rather than decrease, the incidence of TB in cattle. In the reactive cull areas badgers
were killed when there was an outbreak of TB in cattle. Proactive culling of badgers
was found to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle in the culling area by 19%.
However, proactive culling was associated with a 29% increase in bovine TB in the
area outside the culling area (Bourne et al. 2007; Donnelly et al. 2006). The increase
in bovine TB outside of the culling area was due to the perturbation effect, in which
culling caused changes in the social behaviour of badgers including greater ranging
outside their normal territory (Bourne et al. 2007; Woodroffe et al. 2006).
As a result of these early ISG findings, the government introduced pre-movement
testing of cattle and changed the compensation scheme to farmers for loss of cattle
due to TB. In addition, a public consultation was launched on badger culling. The
consultation documents included the information that badger culling could be an
effective method to control TB in cattle and that veterinary advice supported a cull.
The ISG criticised the document on the basis that it did not accurately portray the
findings to date [John Bourne, Chair ISG]. Despite the government’s presentation of
information in the consultation document, 95.6% of respondents were opposed to
badger culling (Defra 2006).
In June 2007 the ISG submitted its Final report to government. The report
concluded that ‘‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB
control in Britain’’ (Bourne et al. 2007). Bourne and his team found that although
badgers contribute to the disease, bovine TB is mostly a problem of cattle-to-cattle
transmission that can be solved by cattle-based controls:
Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed,
and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based
control measures alone. (Bourne et al. 2007)
This conclusion was unexpected, and indeed unwelcome, to some in the animal
health and welfare community. As a former Labour Defra minister involved at the
time reported: ‘‘When I arrived [at Defra] John Bourne’s ISG report basically
was on the desk. And I suppose what it said was not quite what people, or some
people, expected’’ [Former Defra Minister, Labour Party]. Bourne reported that
from the start of the trial it was expected future policy in Defra would be based on
reactive culling [Bourne, Chair ISG].
5
After the ISG submitted its Final report, the
government asked its Chief Scientific Adviser to review the evidence.
6
In contrast to
the ISG, the King review found that badger culling ‘‘could make a significant
contribution to the control of cattle TB in those areas of England where there is a
high and persistent incidence of TB in cattle, provided removal takes places
alongside an effective programme of cattle controls’’ (King 2007 para. 51).
5
‘There was a very definite view from the outset that future policy was going to be the reactive culling.
That was it. And when it was shown that it was not gonna work there was all hell let loose’’ [John Bourne,
Chair ISG].
6
Sir David King worked with five other scientists: Prof. Tim Roper (ecologist), Prof. Douglas Young
(immunologist/microbiologist), Prof. Mark Woolhouse (epidemiologist), Prof. Dan Collins (veterinary
medicine) and Dr Paul Wood (veterinary microbiologist/immunologist).
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science473
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Despite King’s findings, Hilary Benn, the then Secretary of State for Defra, found
the evidence of the ISG more persuasive. He announced to Parliament in July 2008
his decision not to go ahead with a cull:
Having listened carefully to a wide range of views from scientists, farming,
veterinary and wildlife organisations, and many others, and having considered
all the evidence, I have decided that although such a cull might work, it might
also not work. It could end up making the disease worse if the cull was not
sustained over time or delivered effectively, and public opposition, including
the unwillingness of some landowners to take part, would render that more
difficult. It would not be right to take that risk. (HC Deb 2008)
Benn’s decision was celebrated by the anti-cull lobby, including the Royal
Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the Badger Trust and the
left wing press. It was criticised by the Conservative Party, the NFU, the British
Veterinary Association (BVA) and the right wing press.
2010 and a Change in Government
The British public returned no clear majority in the 2010 general election and the
Conservative Party formed a Coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. The
Conservative Party had opposed Benn’s decision in Parliament and favoured a cull
of badgers (HC Deb 2008). Both parties represented a large number of
constituencies in rural areas and the Liberal Democrats had a significant base in
the south west of England, where the disease was endemic. The new government
confirmed its policy of a ‘‘carefully managed and science-led policy of badger
control’’ in its Coalition Agreement (HM Gov 2010, p. 18).
Due to the economic recession, the government had an overarching deficit
reduction and cost sharing programme. The conclusions of the ISG were in part
based on the practicality, including economic sustainability, of a government-led
cull (Bourne et al. 2007). Due to the economic costs of delivering a cull, the
government proposed a farmer- and landowner-led cull (Defra 2010a). Farmers and
landowners would be granted licences by Natural England under the Protection of
Badgers Act 1992 and the Countryside Act 1981.
7
The government proposed that
the culls must take place in areas of at least 150 km
2
, where the cull company
employed by the farmers and landowners had access to over 70% of the land area.
The costs of monitoring and licences would be paid for by government but the
farming industry would pay for delivering the actual cull (Defra 2011). A NFU
bovine TB official outlined the organisation’s position on the culls:
We know that if you cull badgers in a proactive, sustained manner, not
reactive culling, proactive culling, so removing large numbers from a
relatively large area, and that’s sustained for a period of 4 years, we know
7
The Welsh Assembly proposed a badger cull in Wales under the Animal Health Act 1981. This was
found to be unlawful under judicial review when challenged by the Badger Trust. The judge cited one
reason as the estimated reduction in bovine TB being ‘‘modest’’ and not ‘‘substantial’’ (Spencer 2011,
p. 97).
474 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
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from the RBCT that we’re getting 30?% reduction, that persisted you know
4–5 years after culling. So the principle of culling the badgers has been made.
Even based on the way that they did in the RBCT, the issue the ISG had is
with cost of delivering the cull what we’re saying is industry will come
together and deliver the cull, and industry will pick up those costs, so in effect
it is cost sharing in practice. So we’ve said in industry, yes you’ve
[government] caused this problem by lots of inaction, but we’re actually
prepared to pick up and run with this and deliver a policy [NFU official, TB
policy]
The government published a veterinary assessment of the risk factors associated
with the cull. In particular, for the cull to be effective, it must mitigate against
perturbation of badgers (Defra 2010b). The government also encouraged the
licensed BadgerBCG vaccine to be deployed to mitigate perturbation (Defra 2010a).
In the consultation document the government stated that if a different culling
strategy were employed to that used in the RBCT ‘‘the effect on TB incidence and
the degree of the resulting perturbation is uncertain’’. In addition, the veterinary
assessment stated it to be ‘‘essential’’ that culling is done using methods that are
‘both effective and humane’’ (Defra 2010b;HC2013, p. 8).
The government announced in January 2012 that two pilot culls would take place
in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire. The culls were planned to commence in
summer 2012 but were delayed until 2013 for three reasons. First, the 2012 London
Olympic Games put pressure on police resources to oversee the cull. Secondly, the
Badger Trust challenged the legality of the cull in the High Court. Thirdly, the NFU
had written to the minister to request the cull be postponed until 2013. This was
because of recent fieldwork which estimated the badger population was higher than
originally expected (HC 2013). It was the latter reason that led to the national press
mocking Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Defra, for claiming that the
badgers had ‘‘moved the goalposts’’ (BBC 2013). The government’s broader
approach to bovine TB was to divide the country into three geographical areas based
on risk. These were the ‘high risk area’, the ‘low risk area’ and the ‘edge area’. The
high risk and edge areas would be subject to more stringent cattle controls. Badger
culling would take place in high risk areas, with some vaccination of badgers in the
edge area (Defra 2013).
The Queen guitarist and animal rights activist Brian May played an active role in
the badger culling debate. May set up the Save Me trust during the 2010 general
election campaign to oppose Conservative Party policies to give Parliament a free
vote to repeal the Hunting Act and to introduce a badger cull. Later, May was
instrumental in setting up Team Badger, a coalition of national and local
organisations against badger culling.
8
8
The Team Badger coalition included the Badger Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, International Fund for
Animal Welfare (IFAW), Born Free Foundation (BFF), RSPCA, Save Me, League Against Cruel Sports
(LACS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Animal Aid, Animal Defenders
International (ADI) and many local wildlife and badger protection organisations.
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science475
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The Pilot Culls
The Coalition government announced in August 2013 that the pilot culls had
commenced. Requests for extensions to the cull were granted in both Somerset and
Gloucestershire due to an insufficient number of badgers being culled. The Somerset
pilot culled \48% of badgers and was extended from six to 9 weeks. The
Gloucestershire pilot culled \39% and was extended from six to 11 weeks (HC
2013; IEP 2014). The target in both Somerset and Gloucestershire was to cull 70%
of the badger population.
In interview, a former BCVA President spoke of the importance of humane
culling of badgers:
As BCVA President when I spoke to the Secretary of State I said that the
absolutely key thing to do was it has to be done humanely. And I’m sure she
came to that conclusion long before I came to her. But that, as a veterinary
surgeon I felt that was an essential message to get across. [Former BCVA
President]
In February 2014, the BBC reported leaked findings of the expert group auditing
the pilot culls. The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was charged with overseeing the
efficacy, safety and humaneness of the culls. The BBC reported that the pilot culls
had failed both the efficacy and humaneness tests. A parliamentary backbench
motion on 14 March to stop further culling was passed by 200 votes to 1 (HC Deb
2014). The IEP report was later published and had found that 7.4-22.8% of badgers
took longer than 5 min to die (IEP 2014). The government humaneness target had
been that \5% of badgers should take over 5 min to die.
Subsequently, Defra announced the culls would not be rolled out across the
country in 2014, but that the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire would
continue annually. Dyer has claimed that Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister
and leader of the Liberal Democrats, concerned about the unpopularity of the cull
and the IEP report, withdrew his support for extending the pilot culls into Devon
and Cornwall until the problems with effectiveness and humaneness were resolved
(Dyer 2016).
9
The IEP was disbanded after the first year of the pilot culls, despite
the findings of serious problems with effectiveness and humaneness of the culls.
Owen Paterson stated that lessons would be learned to improve future culls, and
there was greater emphasis on the use of badger vaccination (Defra 2014a). The
Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) would provide a written report on later annual culls
to replace the IEP audit.
The 2015 Conservative Government Policy on Badger Control
The 2015 general election resulted in an overall majority for the Conservative Party,
with the Liberal Democrats being decimated at the polls. The Conservative Party
had pledged to implement its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB, which
9
Dominic Dyer wrote Badgered to Death: The People and Politics of the Badger Cull based on his
experience as Chief Executive of the Badger Trust, a leading campaign group against the cull.
476 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
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included badger culling, in its manifesto (Conservative Party 2015). The unpop-
ularity of the badger cull can be inferred from the manifesto’s simple statement to
‘implement our 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB’’, and the complete
omission of any reference to badgers or wildlife (Conservative Party 2015, p. 21).
The government announced a third culling area, in Dorset, to commence in 2015.
The decision to continue free shooting of badgers and roll its policy out to Dorset
led to a further open letter to the government by eminent bovine TB experts
(Barkham 2015; Bateson et al. 2015). The letter, organised by the veterinarian Mark
Jones of the Born Free Foundation, questioned the scientific basis of the cull and
called on the government to reconsider its policy. It was signed by, amongst others,
Professor John Krebs, Professor John Bourne and Professor Ranald Munro. Hence,
the Chairs of the three major recent scientific reviews on badger culling—the
Independent Scientific Review Group (Krebs), the Independent Scientific Group
(Bourne) and the Independent Expert Panel (Munro)—openly expressed opposition
to the continued government culls. In their letter, the scientists also pointed to the
lack of economic grounds for a cull. A Freedom of Information request by the
Badger Trust revealed that the cost of culling a single badger was £6775. In
response to this criticism, the government claimed that farmers were paying for the
majority of costs and that costs are reducing with further culls (BBC News 2015).
The BVA withdrew its support for the free shooting of badgers in 2015 after the
second year of culls failed to improve the humaneness criteria (BVA 2015). Despite
the government policy of permitting both free shooting and cage-trapping and
shooting, the BVA continued its support of the government’s badger culling policy
in general. As a result of internal disagreement in the BVA, it’s Ethics and Welfare
Group was disbanded and replaced by a weaker Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel.
Culling began in seven further areas in 2016 in the counties of Herefordshire,
Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset (Defra 2016b). These culls led to a
Westminster debate on badger culling and bovine TB in September 2016, secured
by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MP Dr Paul Monaghan. Paul Monaghan
stated the following in his opening speech opposing badger culling: ‘‘No substantial
or respectable body of scientific work has ever been produced to contradict the
conclusions of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB’’ (HC Deb 2016).
In general, Conservative Members of Parliament supported a continued cull as an
unfortunate but necessary policy to combat bovine TB. Labour MPs were opposed
to badger culling and criticised the scientific case for government policy. Those
opposed to culling also argued that spending £6000–7000 per badger culled could
not be justified on economic grounds, especially in a broader context of economic
austerity. Given the importance of the economic justification for culling to
government, Defra published a Badger control policy: value for money analysis
report. The report concluded that the benefits of culling should outweigh the costs
by £0.56 million per culling area over 4 years, despite advising ‘‘considerable
uncertainty’’ about the figures (Defra 2016a, p. 2).
A further petition against the cull across 2016–2017 surpassed the required
100,000 signatures to be debated in Parliament. Paul Flynn MP (Labour) moved the
motion to consider the petition. Flynn called for the ‘‘walls of Government prejudice
to come down’’ and for the adoption of a ‘‘scientific and humane’’ approach (HC
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science477
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Deb 2017). The subsequent debate covered the various bovine TB approaches of the
devolved UK nations, other countries such as New Zealand and Australia,
inadequacies of the diagnostic skin test, biosecurity and economics of bovine TB.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, George Eustice,
10
gave
the government response. After describing the government’s approach to bovine
TB, he urged Parliamentarians to keep some perspective. He claimed, based on
veterinary advice, that a badger cull was necessary to eradicate bovine TB. He
finished by putting the following moral question to Parliament: ‘‘Is it really that
different from the approach that we take to controlling other wildlife, such as foxes,
or deer in royal parks?’’ (HC Deb 2017).
The Conservative Party had promised a referendum on continued EU member-
ship in its 2015 general election manifesto. The Prime Minister David Cameron
campaigned to remain in the EU. However, in 2016 the British public narrowly
voted to leave the EU. Cameron resigned and was replaced as leader of the
Conservative Party and Prime Minster by Theresa May. To increase her majority
and strengthen the government’s negotiating stance on Brexit, May called a snap
general election for 8 June 2017.
The 2017 Minority Conservative Government
Theresa May’s plan backfired and the British public returned a minority
Conservative government, supported by a confidence and supply deal with the
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The Conservative Party manifesto had not
mentioned badger culling (Conservative Party 2017), whilst the Labour Party
pledged to end the cull (Labour Party 2017). Michael Gove was appointed as
Secretary of State for Defra and George Eustice continued as the Food and Farming
Minister. Gove promised to review the evidence on bovine TB and badger culling.
Less than a week later, he reaffirmed the government’s position on badger culling in
an interview with the Farmers Guardian (Kay 2017).
Contested Science, Plural Values and Political Factors
That the badger has a role in the transmission of the disease to cattle is widely
accepted. The nature of the disagreement revolves around two key questions. First,
how much of a role does the badger play? Secondly, are there effective, practical
and socially acceptable measures which can reduce the transmission?
The question about effectiveness arises because culling causes perturbation in
badgers, where they roam outside of their normal ranges, which can have the effect
of increasing transmission of disease. The costs of cage-trapping and shooting, the
method of culling used in the RBCT, is prohibitively high to conduct on a
sufficiently large scale. Compounding these constraints, the behaviour and anatomy
of the badger make the cheaper option of controlled/free-shooting problematic.
10
George Eustice has a farming background and his family has a herd of South Devon cattle in Cornwall,
an area of the UK with a high incidence of bovine TB.
478 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
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Badgers are a nocturnal, low slung and muscular species, meaning there is a high
risk of suboptimal culling, resulting in welfare problems for wounded animals.
These two questions have been debated in the public arena by leading scientists
in national newspapers. Ian Boyd, the Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, and Nigel
Gibbens, the CVO, have argued the government’s case for badger culling in The
Guardian (Boyd and Gibbens 2012). Boyd and Gibbens cite evidence from other
countries where wildlife control has assisted TB control, the future potential, but
current limitations, of cattle and badger vaccination, and stress that badger culling is
part of a wider package of disease control measures (Boyd and Gibbens 2012).
In response, Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, President of the Zoological Society of
London, published an open letter in the Observer signed by 30 eminent scientists.
The scientists urge the government to reconsider its policy because ‘‘the
complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle
TB rather than reducing it’’ (Bateson et al. 2012). A key function of expertise in
policy making is to depoliticise policy. In bovine TB policy, Wilkinson has claimed
that rather than expertise depoliticising policy, the expertise itself has become
politicised (Wilkinson 2007).
Grant (2009) and Cassidy (2012) have discussed how the public’s understanding
of the badger has been constructed and how this influences policy. Cassidy claims
there are two opposing constructions of the badger. The ‘good badger’ is epitomised
in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. In contrast, the ‘bad badger’ is a
carnivore, a disruptive digger and a disease carrier (Cassidy 2012, p. 192). Grant
conducted archival research of MAFF files into policy makers’ constructions of the
badger. He found that MAFF and Defra use the construct of an ‘old rogue badger’:
The concept of the ‘rogue badger’ is still present in frames of reference as it
was referred to in a discussion between the author and the Defra bovine TB
team in May 2009. The myth of the rogue badger permitted the construction of
an image of a bad, deviant or antisocial badger, a ‘senile and virtually
toothless’ creaturewhose actions could be presented as a basis for
intervention against a cherished animal. (Grant 2009, p. 563)
Grant claims that such framings of the badger need to be taken into account in the
policy process and argues that technocratic welfare-based models of policy making
have contributed to ‘‘long term intractable policy failure’’ (Grant 2009, p. 563).
Gibbens and Hepple appear to concede such policy failure by describing bovine TB
as a ‘‘wicked problem’’ (Hepple and Gibbens 2013, pp. 235–237). The authors—a
Defra official and the Chief Veterinary Officer—write:
Some policy issues concerning animals can also be identified as wicked
problems. It is often the differing values of the animals involved that can lead
to issues developing into wicked problems. It becomes an even greater mess
when different species with different values to different sectors of society are
intimately involved in the same wicked problem. (Hepple and Gibbens 2013,
p. 236)
These multi-factorial and complex dimensions of bovine TB policy have led to
Britain having three different policies on bovine TB (Spencer 2011). In England,
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science479
123
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
badger culls were first conducted in 2013 and are on-going. In Wales, the Labour
government rejected a cull and has pursued a badger vaccination trial and increased
cattle controls. From 2008 to 2015, the bovine TB incidence in Wales decreased by
around 50% (APHA 2015, pp. 6, 18). More recently due to a global shortage of the
BCG vaccine, badger vaccination has been halted and the Welsh government has
agreed to targeted culling of badgers on some chronically-infected farms (Welsh
Government 2017). Scotland, which has a far lower incidence of bovine TB, has
been granted TB-free status.
The Justification for Animal Welfare Impact Assessment and Ethical
Analysis of Bovine TB and Badger Control Policy
Natural England advice to Defra prior to the 2013 pilot culls estimated that if culling
were successfully completed, 30–50 badgers would be killed for every bovine TB
herd breakdown that is prevented. The same report states that the level of culling in
the badger culls will cause a 14-27% reduction of the badger population in England,
and a 25–54% reduction in the South West and West Midlands (Natural England
2011, p. 5). Figures for the number of badgers culled and the number of cattle that
avoid slaughter due to badger culling are documented in an Animal Welfare Impact
Assessment presented in McCulloch and Reiss (2017d). Here, it is important simply
to state that badger culling is clearly an ethical issue. A former BCVA President
recognises the ethics inherent in badger culling:
Well, you know, making a decision to kill part of our indigenous wildlife, no
matter how well it’s controlled, and how humanely, is a massive decision.
We’d live in a pretty lousy society I think if we just said, ‘‘Yeah we’ll go and
kill badgers’’, and nobody turned a hair. So I think it does have to be
considered very, very carefully and I guess these individual politicians just
have to weigh up the ethical and the scientific issues [Former BCVA
President]
We argue that the weighing up of ethical issues needs to be conducted by
independent experts using established moral frameworks. Policy on badger control
should not, and indeed cannot, be based exclusively on the scientific evidence base
(e.g. the RBCT), economics (e.g. a cost–benefit analysis) nor public opinion (e.g. a
Defra 2006 public consultation). Furthermore, it is problematic for a number of
reasons to leave politicians to ‘weigh up ethical and scientific issues’. Ultimately, in
the final analysis, policy on badger control is necessarily a moral issue that should
be analysed in the context of the following question:
Ethically, what is the right, or most justifiable policy on badger control,
considering impacts on all morally relevant affected groups?
The natural science evidence base, economic tools such as cost–benefit analysis
and public opinion should all inform policy. However, given that cattle and badgers
are, like humans, sentient, government policy options should be appraised in the
480 S. P. McCulloch, M. J. Reiss
123
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context of the above question. Necessarily, an informed answer to this question
entails the following:
1. An Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA) to assess the impacts of policy
options on cattle and badger populations
2. Robust ethical analysis, informed by the empirical evidence base, of badger
control policy options.
The exclusion of either 1 or 2, or indeed both, leads to the exclusion of the
interests of animals in policy making. The public has a legitimate moral concern
about how public policy impacts sentient animals. Therefore, the exclusion of 1 and/
or 2 leads to the exclusion of legitimate values held by the democratic public about
how society treats animals. The AWIA is described and applied to bovine TB and
badger control policy options in McCulloch and Reiss (2017d). Ethical analysis is
applied to bovine TB policy using established frameworks in McCulloch and Reiss
(2017a,b,c).
Conclusion
Bovine TB is the most economically important animal health policy issue in
England. The disease cost the UK government some £500 million between 2004 and
2014 and this cost is set to double over the next decade. Badgers are a wildlife
source of infection but the government’s badger culling policy has proven
controversial. The Independent Scientific Group (ISG), after an 8 year field trial,
recommended against badger culling, concluding that bovine TB can be controlled
and ultimately eradiated by cattle-based measures alone. However, a review by the
Chief Scientist, David King, found that badger culling could contribute to bovine
TB control.
The 2005–2010 Labour government followed the ISG recommendations and
resisted calls by the NFU and BVA for a badger cull. However, the 2010 Coalition
government and the 2015-present Conservative government pursued a farmer-led
badger culling policy. The IEP reported that the first year of the badger culls in west
Somerset and west Gloucestershire failed in terms of effectiveness and humaneness.
Despite this, the government has continued with a cull and rolled it out to a total of
10 areas.
The scientific evidence base, economics and ethics of badger culling is highly
contested by stakeholders. Government and the pro-culling lobby claim that badger
culling is necessary to control bovine TB. They argue that badger culling is justified
on the basis of scientific evidence, economic benefits, veterinary advice and the
experience of countries such as New Zealand. Those opposed to a badger cull argue
that culling is not supported by the scientific evidence base, is not cost effective, and
is inhumane. They argue that vaccination is more effective and humane than culling
and point to Wales, which has substantially reduced its incidence of bovine TB
without culling.
Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Control in Britain: Science481
123
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
In this paper, we argue that Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA) and
independently conducted ethical analysis should be necessary components to inform
animal health and welfare policy such as bovine TB and badger control. AWIA
provides objective information about the welfare impacts of policy options, for both
cattle and badgers. Objective data relating to welfare impacts are a necessary
component of policy making that considers the interests of affected sentient
animals. Furthermore, no matter what the impacts on affected parties, bovine TB
and badger control is necessarily a moral issue. There are clear winners and losers in
the various policy options. Hence, independent ethical analysis, conducted using
established moral frameworks, is a necessary element of just policy making.
Acknowledgements The first author would like to thank the Royal Veterinary College, University of
London, which funded work for a Ph.D. that this paper is based on. He would also like to thank the animal
health and welfare policy actors interviewed during the course of the research. Finally, we would like to
thank the late Christopher Wathes, who was one of the first author’s Ph.D. supervisors.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, dis-
tribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original
author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were
made.
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... When considering bTB control in England there is little evidence that culling is effective in the long term or more cost-effective when compared to other preventive measures, such as vaccination, improved surveillance and movement control (Lederman, 2016;McCulloch & Reiss, 2017a). To justify killing animals to control disease one requires strong scientific evidence that it would be effective; from a OH perspective that considers the well-being of animals, it is not enough to just kill them because we think it might control disease outbreaks. ...
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... As with most topics in science, the history of TB is fascinating, and a host of factors-pasteurisation of cow's milk, improved living standards and general health, the development and increasing use after the Second World War of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine-has led to it being less of a problem in wealthy countries (Lienhardt et al. 2012). The involvement of cattle in the spread of TB has similarities with the importance of animal-human transmission for COVID-19, and there is on-going controversy as to the relevance of badgers in bovine TB (TB in cattle) and about how bovine TB might best be tackled (McCulloch and Reiss 2017). ...
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In this position paper, I examine how the history, philosophy and sociology of science (HPS) can contribute to science education in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. I discuss shortcomings in the ways that history is often used in school science, and examine how knowledge of previous pandemics might help in teaching about COVID-19. I look at the potential of issues to do with measurement in the context of COVID-19 (e.g. measurement of mortality figures) to introduce school students to issues about philosophy of science, and I show how COVID-19 has the affordance to broaden and deepen the moral philosophy that students typically meet in biology lessons. COVID-19 also provides opportunities to introduce students to sociological ways of thinking, examining data and questioning human practices. It can also enable students to see how science, economics and politics inter-relate. In the final part of the paper, I suggest that there are strong arguments in favour of an interdisciplinary approach in tackling zoonoses like COVID-19 and that there is much to be said for such interdisciplinarity in school science lessons when teaching about socio-scientific issues and issues intended to raise scientific literacy.
... Recruiting school children appears to be a phenomenon unique to New Zealand. The United Kingdom for example operates a policy of badger culling in some places for TB control, but licences for killing operators are regulated by legislation (McCulloch and Reiss 2017a). ...
... Recruiting school children appears to be a phenomenon unique to New Zealand. The United Kingdom for example operates a policy of badger culling in some places for TB control, but licences for killing operators are regulated by legislation (McCulloch and Reiss 2017a). ...
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Conservation policy in New Zealand is centred around an objective to totally eradicate three invasive species; the ship rat (Rattus rattus), the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the stoat (Mustela erminea), by 2050. The preferred control method to achieve this is large scale poisoning operations with 1080 and similar toxins. This project is backed up by governmental and non-governmental agencies and surrounded with discourse of ‘war’ and ‘invasion’. The ‘Big Three’ predators are endowed with sinister motives as a means of mobilising support. This self-described ‘war’ is evaluated in terms of ‘just war’ theory and found wanting. In particular there are issues with the recruitment of children for killing, humiliation of combatants, questionable economic motives for the ‘war’, deception by government agencies, lack of consultation, a lack of consideration of alternatives, the use of excessive suffering, and unrealistic expectations. An alternative paradigm of ‘compassionate conservation’ is proposed for New Zealand. Instead of trying to get back to a stable pre-colonial state of nature, I propose a holistic approach that respects both ecosystems and their members and takes into account new understandings of ecosystems as dynamic processes.
... However, the UK Government has no formal and systematic process to assess the impacts of policy options on sentient species, which is entailed by the Treaty of Lisbon or equivalent sentience legislation. McCulloch and Reiss [110,111] have proposed mandatory animal welfare impact assessment (AWIA) for all public policy that significantly affects sentient species. Animal welfare impact assessments should be conducted for each species significantly affected for each policy option under consideration. ...
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The British people voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union (EU). Brexit presents threats and opportunities to animal protection in the United Kingdom (UK), the EU, and internationally. This paper discusses opportunities for animal protection in terms of five criteria. These are first, political context; second, regulatory changes; third, economic and trade factors; fourth, institutional- and capacity-related factors; and fifth, EU and international considerations. Brexit permits reform of UK agricultural policy outside of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to reward high welfare as a public good. The Agriculture Bill, however, does not suggest a radical reform agenda for animal welfare. Brexit permits a ban on live exports, but the UK Government is consulting on improving welfare, not prohibition. Brexit provides an opportunity to ban the import and sale of fur, but the UK Government has signalled it will work to improve welfare in fur farming. Brexit permits the UK to prohibit the import and sale of foie gras, but the Government has stated a ban may be challenged at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Brexit allows more stringent Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) requirements to reduce puppy smuggling. Lucy’s Law and stricter enforcement will also mitigate the problem. New sentience legislation provides the opportunity for a fully independent and properly constituted UK Animal Welfare Advisory body conducting animal welfare impact assessments and ethical appraisal. The Government has proposed sentience legislation but there is a major risk it will not be in place before the UK leaves the EU. The Government has expanded the remit of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, which is not fully independent and is dominated by veterinary members and agricultural interests. Brexit provides some opportunities for animal protection with radical reform of agricultural policy, prohibition of live exports, and banning the import and sale of fur and foie gras. Pre-Brexit, the Government has not demonstrated the political will and commitment to realise these opportunities.
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There has been concern about the attractiveness of science-based careers to many adolescent learners, and it has been suggested that school science may not always recognise or engage personal values that are important to young people in making life choices. The present study discusses interview comments made by upper secondary level students in England when 15 young people were asked to give their personal responses to brief vignettes describing scientific careers. Using an interview-about-scenarios approach, the students were asked about whether they would feel comfortable working in the scientific careers represented. The career areas were purposefully selected because they might be considered to potentially raise issues in relation to personal values or commitments that some students might hold. A range of student perceptions relating to the mooted careers were elicited (positive, negative and indifferent), but all of the participants raised issues that impacted on the acceptability or attractiveness of at least one of the mooted scientific careers, in terms of aspects of their own personal beliefs and values systems. It is recommended that teachers and career advisors should be aware of the range of value-related considerations that influence student views of science-related careers and should consider exploring aspects of science-based careers that link to values commonly shared by young people. This exploratory study also offers indications for directions for further research exploring how learners’ value systems impact upon their perceptions of science and scientific work.
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Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a controversial animal health policy issue in England, which impacts farmers, the public, cattle and badgers. Badgers (Meles meles) act as a wildlife reservoir of disease. Policy options for badger control include (1) do nothing, (2) badger culling, and (3) badger vaccination. This paper argues for mandatory Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA) for all policy that significantly affects sentient animals. AWIA includes (1) species description, and (2) AWIA analysis stages. In this paper, AWIA is applied to impacts of bovine TB policy options on cattle and badgers. Over 4 years, 85,000 badgers will be culled to prevent the slaughter of ~17,750 cattle over 9 years. Hence, about five badgers are culled for every cow which avoids slaughter. The AWIA analyses the impact of badger vaccination on cows and badgers based on a set of stated assumptions. The AWIA estimates badger vaccination to reduce the number of cows slaughtered by 11,600, i.e. a 12.5% reduction. Additional to the harm of killing, culling has greater welfare impacts on badgers compared to non-culling options. Actors in animal health and welfare policy were interviewed about the concept of AWIA. Policy actors supported the idea of AWIA to provide objective data to feed into policy making. The paper concludes with the proposal that AWIA is a necessary stage of just policy making where sentient animals are impacted by government policy.
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Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is an important animal health policy issue in Britain, which impacts farmers, the public, domestic farmed cattle and the wild badger population. The Westminster government’s badger culling policy in England, which began in 2013, has caused considerable controversy. This is in part because the Independent Scientific Group advised against culling, based on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Those opposed to badger culling support more stringent cattle-based measures and the vaccination of badgers. This paper argues for ethical analysis of public policy options which impact sentient species. It provides a summary Animal Welfare Impact Assessment of (1) a do-nothing approach, (2) badger culling, and (3) badger vaccination. A utilitarian analysis is then applied to these policy options considering human wellbeing and animal welfare. The analysis compares a badger culling policy that achieves a 19% reduction in bovine TB incidence, a badger vaccination model achieving a 12.5% reduction, and a do-nothing approach. Policy options are assessed over 9 years and a longer timeframe, and uncertainty is considered. The analysis finds that non-culling approaches, particularly badger vaccination, result in greater total utility, compared to badger culling. Badger culling causes 30% reduction in the badger population in England as well as substantial harms due to the culling process. Culling is opposed by public opinion and is associated with considerable risks and uncertainty. In contrast, non-culling approaches, such as cattle-based measures and badger vaccination, are supported by public opinion and are not associated with such risks.
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The Regulation of Animal Health and Welfare draws on the research of scientists, lawyers, economists and political scientists to address the current and future regulatory problems posed by the issues of animal health and disease. Recent events such as the outbreak of mad cow disease, epidemics of foot and mouth disease, concerns about bluetongue in sheep, and the entry into the food chain of the offspring of cloned cattle, have heightened awareness of the issues of regulation in animal disease and welfare. This book critically appraises the existing regulatory institutions and guiding principles of how best to maintain animal health in the context of social change and a developing global economy. Addressing considerations of sound science, the role of risk management, and the allocation of responsibilities, it also takes up the theoretical and practical challenges which here - and elsewhere - attend the co-operation of scientists, social scientists, lawyers and policy makers. Indeed, the collaboration of scientists and social scientists in determined and regulatory contexts such as that of animal disease is an issue of ever-increasing importance. This book will be of considerable value to those with interests in this issue, as well as those concerned with the law and policy relating to animal health and welfare.
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Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a very important disease of cattle in Great Britain, where it has been increasing in incidence and geographical distribution. In addition to cattle, it infects other species of domestic and wild animals, in particular the European badger (Meles meles). Policy to control bTB is vigorously debated and contentious because of its implications for the livestock industry and because some policy options involve culling badgers, the most important wildlife reservoir. This paper describes a project to provide a succinct summary of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bTB, couched in terms that are as policy-neutral as possible. Each evidence statement is placed into one of four categories describing the nature of the underlying information. The evidence summary forms the appendix to this paper and an annotated bibliography is provided in the electronic supplementary material.
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Human and livestock diseases can be difficult to control where infection persists in wildlife populations. For three decades, European badgers (Meles meles) have been culled by the British government in a series of attempts to limit the spread of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), to cattle. Despite these efforts, the incidence of TB in cattle has risen consistently, re-emerging as a primary concern for Britain's cattle industry. Recently, badger culling has attracted controversy because experimental studies have reached contrasting conclusions (albeit using different protocols), with culled areas showing either markedly reduced or increased incidence of TB in cattle. This has confused attempts to develop a science-based management policy. Here we use data from a large-scale, randomized field experiment to help resolve these apparent differences. We show that, as carried out in this experiment, culling reduces cattle TB incidence in the areas that are culled, but increases incidence in adjoining areas. These findings are biologically consistent with previous studies but will present challenges for policy development.
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The question of whether to cull wild badgers in order to control the spread of bovine TB (bTB) in UK cattle herds has been deeply contentious for nearly 40 years, and still shows no sign of resolution. This paper will examine the strategic framing of badgers in recent debates over bTB in the UK media, which take two opposing forms: the ‘good badger’ as epitomised in Kenneth Grahame's children's novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’; and the less familiar ‘bad badger’: carnivore, digger, and carrier of disease. It will then uncover the deeper historical and cultural roots of these representations, to argue that underlying the contemporary ‘badger/bTB’ controversy is an older ‘badger debate’ about the proper relationship between these wild animals and humans. Finally, the implications of this finding for current debates over bTB policy will be explored.
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Bovine tuberculosis is an intractable policy problem characterised by conflict. Devolution offers the possibility of significant policy variation within Great Britain and bovine tuberculosis has seen this. In Great Britain three distinct policies developed on the back of the same substantial evidence base. Science has not provided the answer and the law has ensured that it remains a difficult issue for the Welsh and Westminster governments. The low incidence of bovine tuberculosis in Scotland has allowed a sustainable policy to develop in that nation.
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1. The incidence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in British cattle has risen markedly over the last two decades. Failure to control the disease in cattle has been linked to the persistence of a reservoir of infection in European badgers Meles meles, a nationally protected species. Although badger culling has formed a component of British TB control policy for many years, a recent large-scale randomized field experiment found that TB incidence in cattle was no lower in areas subject to localized badger culling than in nearby areas where no experimental culls occurred. Indeed, analyses indicated that cattle incidence was higher in culled areas. 2. One hypothesis advanced to explain this pattern is that localized culling disrupted badgers' territorial behaviour, potentially increasing the rate of contact between cattle and infected badgers. This study evaluated this hypothesis by investigating badger activity and spatial organization in 13 study areas subjected to different levels of culling. Badger home ranges were mapped by feeding colour-marked baits at badger dens and measuring the geographical area in which colour-marked faeces were retrieved. 3. Badger home ranges were consistently larger in culling areas. Moreover, in areas not subjected to culling, home range sizes increased with proximity to the culling area boundary. Patterns of overlap between home ranges were also influenced by culling. 4. Synthesis and applications. This study demonstrates that culling badgers profoundly alters their spatial organization as well as their population density. These changes have the potential to influence contact rates between cattle and badgers, both where culls occur and on adjoining land. These results may help to explain why localized badger culling appears to have failed to control cattle TB, and should be taken into account in determining what role, if any, badger culling should play in future control strategies.