Science must lead decision to extend badger cull, experts say

The government’s decision over whether to extend the badger cull must be based on science rather than the extreme views of protesters, according to the NFU’s Adam Quinney.

While public opinion should be listened to when deciding policy, Mr Quinney said ministerial decisions should not be swayed by a small but vocal group of protesters in the belief that the whole country shared their views.

Speaking at a debate on badger culling organised by the University of Nottingham’s Agric Society at Sutton Bonington on Friday (21 February), Mr Quinney said few people were really concerned about whether badgers should be culled or not.

“The NFU conducted a survey of 2,000 people and only 2% thought it was a major issue,” he said.

More on bovine TB and the badger cull

“The badger cull has never been on the top-10 page of the BBC’s most-read news,” Mr Quinney said. While there were about 2,500 people using Twitter to air their views when the cull first started, it has now fallen to only 550 regulars, he added.

John Blackwell, BVA president-elect, said it was inevitable public opinion would be taken into account, regardless of the need to focus on scientific evidence.

The problem is we have politicians involved and they curry public favour,” he said. “Unfortunately, that means public favour will be taken into account.

“The badger cull has never been on the top-10 page of the BBC’s most-read news.”
Adam Quinney, NFU

“Targeted, managed and humane culling is necessary in carefully-selected areas where badgers are a significant contributor to the spread of the disease,” he added.

But Badger Trust spokesman Jack Reedy, questioned whether there was enough support and scientific evidence for a cull to go ahead.

“If there is such concern in the farming community about badgers spreading bovine TB, then why not keep wildlife out of cattle troughs and sheds,” he added.

But Mr Quinney said TB was an industry-wide problem which not only affected housed cattle, and that farmers were already taking responsibility for the disease through biosecurity measures.

“The costs of outbreaks are massive and farmers are trying very hard to prevent them,” he said.