The Zoological Society of London presents science behind controversial badger culling policy
Tuesday 24 January 2006
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is today convening specialists for a debate into the scientific issues surrounding badger culling. The debate, in response to Defra’s announcement on measures to tackle bovine TB (bTB) in England, will also contribute to the ongoing public consultation on the contentious topic.
The link between badgers and bTB in cattle has long been the subject of dispute; ZSL is hosting this debate to present the scientific studies into the relationship between badgers and bTB and expand on how these studies underpin subjects relevant to the public consultation, specifically, the effectiveness of badger culling in bTB hotspots.
The debate is open to the public and the panel of four speakers will be chaired by Professor Tim Clutton-Brock, University of Cambridge. Speakers are:
- Dr Richard Clifton-Hadley, Veterinary Laboratories Agency
- Professor Christl Donnelly, Imperial College London, vice chair of Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB
- Dr Rosie Woodroffe, Associate Professor of Conservation Biology, University of California, USA and member of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB
- Dr John Gallagher, Independent TB consultant, and previously director of MAFF / Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Professor Georgina Mace, Director of Science at the ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said “There are some difficult choices to be made affecting both cattle and badgers. There are strongly held views relating both to wildlife management and the farming industry. We believe that decisions need to be guided by good information, sound science and informed debate, and hope that the speakers at our meeting will contribute to this process”
Dr John Gallagher, Independent TB consultant, and previously Director of MAFF / Veterinary Laboratories Agency said: “Tuberculosis in badgers is a serious welfare problem now which will severely compromise the long term health of the species. Aspects of the disease in the badger will be discussed as well as the significance of disease in the badger for other animals sharing the habitat”
Professor Christl Donnelly, Imperial College London, said “The fact that widespread badger culling has both simultaneous negative and positive effects could have important implications for
policies to control TB in cattle. Although we believe very large culling areas would act to reduce cattle TB, it is not clear whether this would prove economically and environmentally sustainable.”
Dr Rosie Woodroffe, Associate Professor of Conservation Biology, University of California said ”The ecological evidence shows that, paradoxically, some forms of culling can increase the numbers of badgers that cattle come into contact with, rather than decreasing it as intended. This is because the badgers left behind by culling travel more widely than they do when left undisturbed. This probably explains why culling badgers can increase the chances of cattle becoming infected with TB, and severely restricts the usefulness of badger culling as a TB control measure."
A trial to assess the impact of badger culling was first proposed in 1997 following a report into badgers and bovine TB suggesting that in Britain, badgers are a significant source of infection in cattle. This, and recent research results from the ongoing Randomised Badger Culling Trial (due to finish in early 2006) has focused the debate. Given the significance for badgers and cattle in the UK the Government is committed to involve the wider public in the decision making process.
The outcome of the ZSL debate will be submitted to the Defra consultation which closes on the 10th March 2006
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