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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Daily Mail coverage on the badger culling

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There is inaccurate coverage in the Daily Mail today on Defra’s involvement in a research paper published in Vet Record.

The piece claims that Defra “forced” Vet Record, the journal of the British Veterinary Association, to make changes to “water down” a study by Iain McGill, Mark Jones and Tom Langton on badger culling. However, this is simply not true.

As is often the case with such papers, Defra was given advance sight of the study by the editor of Vet Record, and invited to make comment for an accompanying news piece.

Upon reviewing the paper, our experts found that the analysis was scientifically flawed. This meant that it was impossible for the study’s authors to have reached the conclusions that they did about the effects of badger culling, and that the study’s conclusions were therefore wrong.

As we had been invited to, we presented our findings to Vet Record to help inform its editorial decisions around publication of the paper, with the journal deciding to publish the study alongside a letter of response from the Chief Vet and Defra Chief Scientific Adviser. There was absolutely no attempt to make changes to the scientific research, as the Mail claims was the case.

A Defra spokesperson said:

These claims are simply not true. Any decision on publication, or further scrutiny of the report, was made by Vet Record.

APHA scientists, the Chief Vet and Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser reviewed the paper and found that the analysis was scientifically flawed. It manipulated data in a way that makes it impossible to see the actual effects of badger culling and therefore its conclusions are wrong.

The Daily Mail also fails to recognise the success of our bovine TB eradication strategy in dealing with this insidious disease. Published scientifically rigorous analysis of the disease shows that licensed badger culling is helping to drive down bTB in cull areas.

For example, TB incidence in the areas where culling started in 2016 has dropped from 17.2 Official TB Free Status Withdrawn (OFTw) breakdowns per 100 herd years at risk in 2016-17, to 8.7 in 2019-20.  Similarly in the areas where culling started in 2017 it dropped from 15.3 in 2017-18 to 8.4 in 2019-20.  In contrast, in the parts of the High Risk Area where no culling took place incidence has remained relatively stable fluctuating between 10.9 and 12.8.

We do not want to continue the cull indefinitely, which is why we are moving to the next phase of our long-term strategy, with new intensive cull licences being issued for the final time this year and improved testing and cattle vaccination when available so that we can eradicate this insidious disease.

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  1. Comment by Tom Langton posted on

    Can you say why you have removed blog comments please?

  2. Comment by Michael Vicarage posted on

    Why did the Daily Mail significantly amend their article a few hours after publication? The Mail appear to have changed the story from accusing Defra of malpractice to placing the blame on the staff at Vet Record. Could it be that Defra did to the Daily Mail what the original version of the article accused Defra of doing to Vet Record.
    We need to be told.

  3. Comment by Michael Desmond Walters posted on

    As if I believe anything this government says.

  4. Comment by Michael Rees Hughes posted on

    Talk about the kettle calling the pot black. Defra used incorrect data (which it has reluctantly admitted) to dismiss peer-reviewed scientific research by McGill and Jones which shows that badger culling isn't working. Without explanation it has also dismissed other scientific papers (for example, one in part based on the badger road casualty survey) which question its claims. Going further back it has ignored the 10-year £50million randomised badger culling survey which concluded culling makes no meaningful contribution to bTB control. And all the while it has relied on the ineffective and unreliable skin test to determine whether a herd is TB free or not. Ludicrous!

  5. Comment by Dr Brian Jones posted on

    I suspect whatever I comment will be removed, such is the power of DEFRA to hide reality. As an independent scientist I find the Langton et al paper satisfactory for content and Vet Record satisfactory for the peer review process. In contrast, DEFRA's non-peer reviewed rebuttal was inaccurate and their conclusion on badger culling efficacy ridiculous. DEFRA are now trying to gloss over the rapidly reducing bovine TB prevalence in the non-culled areas. DEFRA are not following acceptable scientific methodology and their badger culling policy is ineffectual, inhumane and costly.

  6. Comment by Roger Weeks posted on

    Hasn’t the Government failed to come clean with the true motivation behind the badger cull, that being to remove the inconvenient badger on behalf of what it sees as a powerful lobby group the NFU. Of course, to just get rid of something because it effects profitability by occupying land in an evolving transition from pastural to arable isn’t legal, especially when that species is protected.
    Why else would you:
    Refuse to seek proof of need by testing some of the 176,941+ badgers killed to establish disease prevalence.
    Withhold known superior tests for disease in cattle while prioritising the culling of badgers. Failing to identify resultant benefit in cattle disease reduction when eventually said tests have been used.
    Failing to recognise the wisdom of critical correspondence from expertise in that particular field.
    Dismissive of 300,000 strong petition, demonstrations and resultant views expressed at consultation.
    And now the dismissal of this new peer reviewed research based on DEFRA’s own raw data without providing plausible counter argument.
    And so much more, Risk pathways, Godfray report, sacking of independent experts, NE oversight, lack of biosecurity compliance requirement, the flexing of everything, numbers, time and areas and lack of transparency, frustrating all that doesn’t comply with its badger riddance obsessional agenda.
    There are so many reasons why this ecocide is wrong on all counts. Government however is so obsessionally entrenched in this particular species sacrifice it just has to keep on giving to those ruthlessly demanding riddance, no matter the public cost, species survival and worldwide conservation integrity.