Public against badger culling to control bovine TB – or are they?

DEFRA has announced that 95% of the responses it received to its badger culling consultation were against a cull of badgers.

But it also revealed that members of ‘citizens panels’, which involved asking people from three major cities to discuss the issue, were marginally in favour of a cull, so long as it was part of a cohesive, multi-faceted strategy.

When the subject was discussed in groups the view was marginally in favour of a cull, so long as some other conditions were met.

These other conditions included the farming industry taking responsibility for better biosecuity and husbandry and continued research into more sensitive TB testing, a better cattle vaccine and a badger vaccine.

The results of the consultation, which closed on 10 March, show the huge level of public interest there is in the idea of badger culling.

Campaigns run by wildlife and farming groups generated over 33,000 of the 47,000 responses and most of these were against a cull.

But things were less clear cut when looking at the responses of interested organisations or stakeholder groups. 50% of stakeholders were against taking action against badgers, compared to 41% in favour.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said the consultation had been invaluable in helping minsters hear from all sides, although stressed a decision had not been taken either way yet.

“This is clearly a subject that strongly divides opinions. But what is clear is that respondents broadly agree that any decision on culling must be based on a sound scientific and practical foundation.”

DEFRA has delayed making a decision because it is investigating why a significant reduction in new bovine TB cases has been recorded over the past six months.