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Paterson's use of science to justify badger cull 'beggars belief', says expert Chris Cheeseman

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 06, 2014

Paterson's use of science to justify badger cull 'beggars belief', says expert Chris Cheeseman

Dr Chris Cheeseman has criticised the Environment Secretary's use of a scientific study he jointly wrote to justify a continuation of the badger cull

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Owen Paterson’s use of past scientific studies to make the case for continued badger culls “beggars belief” according to a scientist behind one of the reports.

Dr Chris Cheeseman, who worked extensively on the badger TB vaccination trials at Woodchester Park, also says that the cost of policing the recent trials alone would have been sufficient for a programme of vaccination.

In a letter to the a href="http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/lettersextra/10912922.print/"> Stroud News and Journal, Dr Cheeseman writes: “Make no mistake, ministers are fully intending to resume the slaughter next year.

“Both Mr Paterson and Mr Eustice have drawn reference to earlier trials, where some treatment areas were estimated to have a low culling efficiency, as justification for carrying on with the current culls.

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“As a co-author of the scientific paper they have referred to, I have to warn that this is an entirely unjustified, indeed dangerous, position to take.

“The recent shambolic pilot culls have departed so far from the scientifically controlled conditions of the previous trial, that using past results as a model to predict a beneficial outcome of the current culls frankly beggars belief.”

Not only does he say that the methods used in the trial culls do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, Dr Cheeseman refers to a “widely held view among experts” – including former colleague at Woodchester, Professor Rosie Woodroffe – that the “poorly conducted” trial culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire will in fact have helped spread the disease.

He continues: “The latest research has estimated that just 5.7 per cent of cattle TB outbreaks are directly due to badgers. The biggest problem is the spread of the disease among the cattle themselves.

“There are sustainable options, such as rigorously improved cattle testing, better farm biosecurity and the development of vaccines.

“Defra should focus on these and stop the misguided culling of badgers permanently.”

From January 1, biosecurity has been tightened, with farmers risking potentially unlimited fines for a failure to arrange TB testing within prescribed intervals. The changes, announced in the autumn, also laid the ground for culls of wild cattle.

Defra has since 1994 contributed £16 million to research into badger vaccination, among which studies one concluded that badger vaccination was 74 per cent effective, though offered no guarantee that the disease would not be passed on to badgers. The department says bovine TB costs the taxpayer £100 million each year.

Studies into vaccination under the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project continue at Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, where Dr Cheeseman previously worked. Over the 100sq km test area, 834 badgers were vaccinated in 2013, down from 998 the year before.

Figures put together by animal welfare charity Care for the Wild have put the cost of the trial badger culls over 300sq km, including policing, at £7.3 million, more than £24,000 per square kilometre and more than £4,100 per badger killed.

Vaccination trials carried out in Pembrokeshire last year showed the cost of vaccination to be £662 per badger, though the NFU in Wales questioned the efficacy, saying that many of the 1,424 badgers vaccinated in the £943,000 programme would already have TB and would therefore continue as carriers.

Dr Cheeseman concludes his letter on the aspect of cost, writing: “Incidentally, the cost of policing the pilot culls alone could have paid for a badger vaccination programme”.

Calling for opponents of the cull to lobby MPs to stop further culls, he concludes: “If we don’t act now thousands more badgers will be killed next year for no good at all.”

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13 comments

  • Ludmilla  |  January 31 2014, 12:46AM

    'Farmers have been culling badgers at every opportunity' ? Is this the illegal or legal mode we are talking about here http://tinyurl.com/p6zcmn2" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/p6zcmn2 http://tinyurl.com/p6zcmn2" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/p6zcmn2 http://tinyurl.com/qengbuk http://tinyurl.com/p346t36 Dangerous, grossly unethical and barbaric, bringing down decent farmers with the country sports and NFU anti badger propaganda - demonising a part of our wildlife and any views against being slapped down as 'anthropomorphic' or 'animal rights gone mad' ? Just shows what animal welfare means to some - also as slurry is known to be a carrier of BTB a typically counterproductive measure - pointless

    |   1
  • Charlespk  |  January 06 2014, 8:08PM

    400 TO 40,000 reactors when they stopped culling badgers. Farmers have been culling badgers at every opportunity also. We all know that. Particularly the Welsh farmers. You can't change the science of the BCG or tuberculosis just because you are a badgerist. Change your record. Your ignorance of the epidemiology and anthropomorphism is no excuse. Focal culling will continue just as it has in every other developed country.

    |   -19
  • barryterry-2  |  January 06 2014, 7:48PM

    @ Charlespk . Thanks for the history lesson but what about the fact that BTB has been falling for the last 3 years Pre badger cull ( after your time I suppose )

    |   18
  • Charlespk  |  January 06 2014, 5:58PM

    History barryterry! . EVIDENCE. This is the REAL science. The INDISPUTABLE, historically accurate, scientific facts. http://tinyurl.com/bw7jpxy (open in a new window)

    |   -22
  • Charlespk  |  January 06 2014, 5:54PM

    You can't change the science of the BCG or tuberculosis just because you are a badgerist. Change your record. Your ignorance and anthropomorphism is no excuse.

    |   -22
  • barryterry-2  |  January 06 2014, 5:48PM

    @ Charlespk Read this article before dusting off your out of date old scientific reports . Dr Cheeseman states Owen Patersons use of past scientific studies to make a case for continued badger culls "beggars belief ". Sounds like Paterson has been reading your comments before spending over 7 million pounds of public money on this unscientific pointless badger killing spree

    |   20
  • Charlespk  |  January 06 2014, 5:10PM

    @barney2 and Clued-Up and Chris Cheeseman Your combined ignorance of the BCG vaccine will not suddenly make it effective for badgers. It should not ever be given to an untested mammal. . All their tests showed that it would not do obvious harm. . Its efficacy is totally unproven in the wild.

    |   -22
  • Clued-Up  |  January 06 2014, 4:34PM

    The on-going cost of vaccinating badgers has now dropped to around £20 per badger, assuming the vaccinations are done by trained, accredited volunteers working for badger / wildlife charities. The much quoted £662 cost per badger included overhead costs for work that won't need to be done again (eg planning and setting up the vaccinator training schemes and paying for civil servants' time in getting the vaccination programme started, etc). It also included paying for commercial companies to do the vaccinations. If you want to reduce cattle bTB, the way to do it is to introduce UK wide cattle vaccination and the DIVA test (happening this year apparently) and / or to keep on with the current tight, enforced cattle testing / movement restrictions. If, in spite of ALL the evidence that bTB is a cattle disease spread mainly by cattle to other cattle, you still want to wipe out bTB in badgers then by far the most effective way of doing so is to vaccinate them. You can vaccinate 205 badgers for the same money it costs to kill just ONE!

    |   21
  • Clued-Up  |  January 06 2014, 4:33PM

    The on-going cost of vaccinating badgers has now dropped to around £20 per badger, assuming the vaccinations are done by trained, accredited volunteers working for badger / wildlife charities. The much quoted £662 cost per badger included overhead costs for work that won't need to be done again (eg planning and setting up the vaccinator training schemes and paying for civil servants' time in getting the vaccination programme started, etc). It also included paying for commercial companies to do the vaccinations. If you want to reduce cattle bTB, the way to do it is to introduce UK wide cattle vaccination and the DIVA test (happening this year apparently) and / or to keep on with the current tight, enforced cattle testing / movement restrictions. If, in spite of ALL the evidence that bTB is a cattle disease spread mainly by cattle to other cattle, you still want to wipe out bTB in badgers then by far the most effective way of doing so is to vaccinate them. You can vaccinate 205 badgers for the same money it costs to kill just ONE!

    |   19
  • barney2  |  January 06 2014, 4:31PM

    Yes Charles India has a big TB problem but there government has no interest in vaccinating there children. They prefer to spend there money including the money they get from the UK on a space programme. To them exploring Mars is more important than vaccinating there children.

    |   20

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