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Back on Sunday 14 October 2012, The Observer newspaper published a letter from some of the world's leading animal scientists, explaining why they believe that the badger cull started by the UK government this week risks becoming a costly distraction from nationwide TB control.
Bovine tuberculosis is a serious problem for UK farmers, deserving the highest standard of evidence-based management. The government's TB-control policy for England includes licensing farmers to cull badgers. As scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, we believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it.
Even if such increases do not materialise, the government predicts only limited benefits, insufficient to offset the costs for either farmers or taxpayers. Unfortunately, the imminent pilot culls are too small and too short term to measure the impacts of licensed culling on cattle TB before a wider roll-out of the approach. The necessarily stringent licensing conditions mean that many TB-affected areas of England will remain ineligible for such culling. We are concerned that badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from nationwide TB control.
We recognise the importance of eradicating bovine TB and agree that this will require tackling the disease in badgers. Unfortunately, culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy.
Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, University of Cambridge and president of the Zoological Society of London, and 30 others (see observer.co.uk/letters) Professor Mike Begon, University of Liverpool ; Professor Tim Blackburn, Zoological Society of London ; Professor John Bourne CBE, former Chairman, Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB; Professor William Sutherland, University of Cambridge; Professor Terry Burke, University of Sheffield; Dr Chris Cheeseman, formerly Food & Environment Research Agency; Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow; Professor Tim Clutton Brock FRS, University of Cambridge ; Professor Andrew Dobson, Princeton University; Dr Matthew Fisher, Imperial College London; Dr Trent Garner, Zoological Society of London; Professor Stephen Harris, University of Bristol; Professor Daniel Haydon, University of Glasgow; Professor Peter Hudson FRS, Pennsylvania State University; Professor Kate Jones, University College London; Professor Matt Keeling, University of Warwick; Professor Richard Kock, Royal Veterinary College; Professor Lord Krebs Kt FRS, University of Oxford; Dr Karen Laurenson, Frankfurt Zoological Society; Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS, former chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council; Professor Simon Levin, Princeton University; Professor Georgina Mace FRS, University College London; Professor Jonna Mazet, University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Professor Lord May OM AC Kt FRS, University of Oxford; Professor Graham Medley, University of Warwick; Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland, Imperial College London; Professor Denis Mollison, former Independent Scientific Auditor to the Randomised Badger Culling Trial; Professor Pej Rohani, University of Michigan; Dr Tony Sainsbury, Zoological Society of London; Professor Claudio Sillero, University of Oxford; Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London.
Also on Ekklesia: Badger cull 'flies in the face of scientific evidence' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18915Tweet