Skip to content

Tim Bonner: Science deniers proven wrong over badger cull

At the end of last month a major study was published on which looked at the effectiveness of the badger control policy (BCP), or culling as it is more widely known, in reducing Bovine TB. The research took in data from 52 cull areas and the results were conclusive: “The herd incidence rate of TB reduced by 56% (95% Confidence Interval 41–69%) up to the fourth year of BCP interventions”. Put simply, culling has worked.

The results are a complete vindication of the organisations, vets and scientists who argued for the cull, the Ministers who authorised it, and the farmers, keepers and wildlife managers who carried it out. My primary interest is not, however, the efficacy of badger culling in tackling the scourge of Bovine TB, which others are far more qualified to deal with, but the politics and PR of an issue which has raged across the media and parliament for well over a decade.

There are any number of individuals and organisations who issued apocalyptic warnings about the practical and political consequences of the cull who should now be issuing grovelling apologies. I am not talking about those who raised reasonable questions or concerns, but the very many who took an extreme, anti-science position and who fomented anger and unlawful behaviour.

High on the list, as ever, is Chris Packham who welcomed the start of culling in 2013 with the claim that those involved were “brutalist thugs, liars and frauds”. Close behind was Dominic Dyer, accomplished bandwagon jumper and previously Chief Executive of the Badger Trust, who wrote of the “incompetence, negligence and deceit at the heart of the badger cull policy” and predicted that politicians who supported the policy would face electoral Armageddon. Extraordinarily, the Liberal Democrat party has recently selected Dyer as a parliamentary candidate which will worry many voters in the sort of rural constituencies which the Lib Dems will be targeting at the General Election.

Meanwhile, in the parliamentary debate on the cull, Tory MP Tracey Crouch, who has been consistently wrong on animal rights issues, called the policy “barbaric, indiscriminate and ill-thought through.” What stands out most from the coverage of time is how heavily opponents of the cull relied on public opinion. RSPCA Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, said that the cull “flies in the face of scientific and public opinion”, whilst then Labour MP, Chris Williamson, said it would “enrage” the public.

The policy was passed under the Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition. The Conservative Party was returned with a majority in 2015 and has won two subsequent elections whilst the cull has been ongoing. If any voters have been motivated to vote against the party which initiated the cull they certainly seem to have been few and far between.

As for the apologies from the charities, campaigners and even scientists who were not only wrong, but who wilfully whipped up hatred and dissent, they are unsurprisingly absent. The first rule of the animal rights movement is that you can never be wrong because the public love animals. The fact that you deny science, subvert logic and actually promote animal suffering does not matter as well as you can produce a poll that says people agree with you.

Become a member

Join the Countryside Alliance

We are the most effective campaigning organisation in the countryside.

  • life Protect our way of life
  • news Access our latest news
  • insurance Benefit from insurance cover
  • magazine Receive our magazine