The Guardian reported this afternoon that next year’s badger cull will start earlier, in June or July, when badger cubs will be young and inexperienced. This means they will be easier to trap and kill than cubs later in the year. This will help the cullers achieve their target numbers of badgers killed, but will not help them reduce bovine TB.
For badger culling to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cows, the scientific evidence shows that a large proportion of badgers need to be killed. So far, the cullers have missed their targets. On the face of it, starting earlier in the year, when cubs are easier to kill, may help them. But in reality it’s likely to have little impact on the spread of the disease for two reasons:
- Many cubs die in their first year anyway, so shooting them will have less effect on the badger population than killing the same number of older badgers.
- Cubs are less likely to be infected with TB than adults, so aren’t the badgers that are most likely to spread the disease to cattle.
This provides further evidence that the cull is not really about reducing bovine TB – at best it’s about looking like they’re trying to reduce bovine TB. I realise this makes me sound like one of the crazy conspiracy theorists that abound on the internet. But, as discussed in previous posts (The badger cull: an ‘evidence to policy’ perspective; Badgering pays off at last) the cull so far has shown no signs of meeting the conditions necessary to have an impact on the disease. To carry on with it in the face of evidence from the government’s own advisory panel saying it’s neither effective nor humane, hints at the politics behind the cull. To then introduce further measures that are likely to increase the numbers of badgers culled without reducing transmission is a very cynical ploy.
Bovine TB is a big problem. But it doesn’t justify an expensive, ineffective, inhumane cull that has already cost the tax payer millions, and has little chance of making a difference. The government and National Farmers Union need to look at other ways to tackle the problem, rather than ignore or distort the scientific evidence.