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Scientist defends badger cull

Saturday, 10 February, 2001

The scientist behind a badger cull to establish if they spread tuberculosis to cattle has defended the 34m programme.

Sir John Krebs said the culling of up to 10,000 badgers was vital to see how the disease spreads.

The scientist now works for the Food Standards Agency but drew up the original plans for the cull.

"Although the cull is proceeding slowly, it is the only way to ascertain first of all whether or not badgers are responsible for transmitting TB to cattle, and also whether culling badgers is an effective way of controlling this nasty disease," he said.

Professor John Bourne, who now chairs the cull, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the experiment was on course.

He said: "The purpose is to answer questions with respect to the role of the badger in transmitting TB to cattle."

He stressed that an independent audit report into the cull had not revealed flaws in the operating procedures of staff.

Cull criticised

But Dr Elaine King, from the National Federation of Badger Groups, criticised the cull.

"The experiment is simply too grandiose and too complicated to implement," she said.

The federation wants to see the 34m spent instead on cattle vaccine and improving cattle health.

But an all-party group of MPs has backed plans for badgers to be killed, amid farmers' desperation at the continued spread of the bovine TB disease in cattle.

There is no scientific evidence linking badgers with the spread of the disease but a 1997 report suggested that a limited cull could be one way of finding out.

An independent group was set up two years ago to oversee a trial cull but the programme has been hit by delays and is not expected to report until 2004.

A Commons agriculture select committee has called on ministers to press ahead with deciding whether badger culling should become national policy.

The government set up the five-year trials in 10 "hot spot" regions of the UK.

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