Veterinary surgeons have criticised the Krebs culling trial as badly flawed and merely an exercise in badger disturbance, in a letter to DEFRA secretary David Miliband.

The letter, signed by 60 practicing or retired vets from the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, discredits the Krebs Trial suggesting it led to increased disease through perturbation.

Lead signature and former veterinary pathologist at the Institute of Animal Health, Compton, Lewis Thomas said the change in minister at DEFRA provided the necessary impetus to raise the issue.

“The letter aims to prod the government out of its state of inertia and end the current prevarication,” said Dr Thomas.

“The culling methodology employed by the Independent Scientific Group was so badly flawed that the trials can neither form a basis for future badger control nor inform the scientific debate,” say the vets in their letter.

Instead it urges DEFRA to place greater emphasis on culling trials carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The scientific debate was more than adequately informed prior to 1998 by the three English culling trials at Thornbury, Steeple Leaze and Hartland Point, and by the large Irish trial in East Offaly.”

The group considers that these trials and the recent Four Area trial in Ireland provide sufficient data to inform future policy.

The letter also advises DEFRA to be realistic about the role of biosecurity and face up to the necessary task of taking action against the main wildlife host of TB.

“Killing more and more cattle while ignoring the wildlife reservoir in badgers will not and cannot solve the problem.

Furthermore, to pretend that enhanced biosecurity measures to keep badgers and cattle apart can be effective, particularly at pasture, takes naivety into the realms of absurdity.”

But the claims were rubbished by John Bourne, chairman of the ISG and formerly Dr Thomas’ boss at IAH, Compton.

“The science is getting better all the time, just as we told the government it would.

It’s clear:

If you’re going to cull it needs to be draconian – basically you have to follow the example of the Irish and clear everything.

“But culling badgers won’t solve the riddle of TB.

At best the Irish only achieve a 50% reduction and I would estimate the drop in this country to be only 40%,” he said.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk