Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
MONDAY 18 JUNE 2007
BOURNE CBE, PROFESSOR
OBE AND PROFESSOR
Q60 Chairman: Can I make quite certain
that my ears did not deceive me a moment ago when you said with
your almost impish smile, "Left to its own devices, culling
is not the silver bullet but if it induced some other activity
as a quid pro quo it might have a role to play"? Is
that what you were communicating to me?
Professor Bourne: It would be
very unfortunate if that happened but that is exactly what I was
communicating to you because farmers have made it clear they will
not co-operate unless they can kill a few badgers. Farmer co-operation
is absolutely essential to get this disease under control. It
will be an appalling thing for us if farmers were given the opportunity
of knocking off a few badgers just to get their co-operation.
Q61 David Taylor: Professor Woodroffe
used the phrase "a thin strip round the 100 square kilometre
area." What do you have in mind by "thin strip"?
In the 100 kilometre area what might be the typical population
of badgers and how thin is the strip in terms of dispersal, as
Professor Woodroffe: You would
have about 400 or 500 badgers within a 100 square kilometre area.
Are we talking about how many in the peripheral area?
Q62 David Taylor: Yes. How big is
that peripheral area?
Professor Bourne: In the 100 square
kilometres, the radius is 5.64 and the periphery is two kilometres.
Professor Woodroffe: We detect
effects of culling on badger population density and ranging behaviour
as far as we looked, which was two kilometres outside the cull
area. We have searched for evidence of impact on cattle and what
we see is that most of the effects on cattle are within that two
kilometres and they do not seem to go further than that. The genetic
evidence suggests that on later culls badgers are coming regularly
from four or five kilometres away.
Q63 Mr Gray: Why are we using kilometres
rather than miles?
Professor Woodroffe: Because scientists
work in SI units. We are in the European Union now.
Professor Bourne: The total area
of two kilometres periphery is about 80% of the inside core area.
David Taylor: I thought it was more like
Q64 Mr Cox: I must pick you up on
something you just said, Professor Bourne, which I have to say
on reflection I would invite you to reconsider. You said, "Farmers
have indicated that they will not co-operate unless they can kill
a few badgers." That is as flippant a remark as I have heard
given against a community of people who are very decent and law
abiding, under enormous pressure, and I do believe that you should
reconsider that astonishing remark.
Professor Bourne: Maybe so, but
Q65 Mr Cox: Do you reconsider it
Professor Bourne: Yes, I do. Farmers
have consistently stated they will not co-operate with Government
in developing improved cattle controls unless there is culling
Q66 Mr Cox: I simply do not accept
that as a version. At the moment on the evidence as it exists,
the farming community as I understand their position believe that
there is a role for culling. We will look at your new report and
we will see what Defra does by way of the development of policy
but I do not think it assists the debate and it certainly does
not help the confidence of the farming community in the integrity
of your conclusions to make remarks like that.
Professor Bourne: The farming
community consistently believe, as you say, that culling has a
part to play in reducing cattle TB in spite of the scientific
evidence which shows that localised culling has no contribution
to make except to make it worse.
Q67 Mr Cox: Let us take as a given
that you believe in the conclusions that your group has reached.
That does not mean, with respect, that there cannot be legitimate
room for disagreement or indeed room for consideration that further
research might yield different results. This is the question I
really want to come to you about: that you have not in the way
in which you have reached your conclusions had to take into account
social factors which you overtly and explicitly do. A farmer looking
at this will see the results in Ireland and see that dramatic
effects can be achieved within the four areas and then be told
by your group, because it is clear throughout your report that
you do say this, that one of the essential distinctions between
Ireland and England is that culling on the scale that Ireland
are contemplating would not be socially acceptable. Indeed, you
have said that today. If it were possible for a government, let
us say, to take compulsory powers to achieve the type of culling
mentioned by Professor Woodroffe, simultaneous, across a wide
area to achieve elimination over a significant tract of territory,
it looks does it not from the Irish results and from your own
conclusions that there could be, on the incidence in cattle, some
Professor Bourne: Yes. I responded
to that in relation to the question asked by Mr Gray. Clearly
it is possible to take badgers out over large areas if there is
a will to do it. Professor Woodroffe suggested that even that
would be impossible to do in this country.
Q68 Mr Cox: "In this country"
meaning across the country as a whole.
Professor Bourne: We are talking
about the county of Wiltshire. The other question is what level
of impact would you expect on cattle TB. The four areas trial
gives a range of figures. It is difficult to quantify exactly
what the contribution of culling is because of the way the science
was designed and conducted. Professor Donnelly has carried out
an analysis which suggests the reduction in cattle TB incidence
is possibly about 50%. I was speaking with the individual running
the Irish TB control programme a week ago, along with Professor
Donnelly and Sir David Cox, and the question was asked, "What
is happening in the trial areas with respect to cattle TB incidence?"
He said, "Well, it is not very clear. It seems to have reduced
and now it seems to be plateauing off." It is unclear what
impact culling of badgers is having on Ireland. We will have to
wait and see.
Q69 Mr Cox: The published science
on it is clear.
Professor Woodroffe: Could I clarify
that? You referred to the effects detected in Ireland as dramatic
and it is true that some of the headline figures
Q70 Mr Cox: Significant.
are quoted in that scientific paper are dramatic. There are numbers
like 95% bandied around. That was for one of their areas in one
of the years. I would like to add a note of caution and draw attention
to some issues concerning the interpretation of results from Ireland.
You will be aware from looking over our report that one of the
effects we detected was that, as you move deeper into our trial
areas, the effect of culling appears to improve. There is a trend
suggesting that as you go deeper in you get more beneficial effects
on cattle TB, which is consistent with finding this greater reduction
of badger population density in those areas and smaller effects
on badger prevalence and infection. All of that is consistent.
In Ireland, where they were not able to identify an area that
was completely bounded by geographical barriers to badgers, they
had what they call buffer areas and these buffer areas were six
Q71 Mr Cox: They took out at the
same level as the removal areas.
Professor Woodroffe: They have
never published the cattle incidence data from those areas.
Q72 Mr Cox: I understand it exists.
Professor Woodroffe: I am sure
the data must exist but those data were never published.
Q73 Mr Cox: If it were inconsistent
with their conclusions, it would be scientifically dishonest,
would it not? What are you suggesting?
Professor Woodroffe: I am suggesting
that we would love to see those data.
Q74 Mr Cox: These are reputable scientists.
If the data was contradicted by information in their possession
which they have not published, it would be scientifically dishonest.
Are you seriously suggesting that the Irish scientists are capable
of that type of deception?
Professor Woodroffe: No, I am
not accusing anybody of deception. Their peer-reviewed paper does
not include that information which would be informative to the
Professor Bourne: What we are
suggesting is the assessment we presented to ministers, when the
Irish data was published in 2006. There is evidence for a substantial
impact on cattle TB incidence as a result of culling in the four
areas trial but it is not possible to be precise about the extent
of that impact
Q75 Mr Cox: You are saying you do
not have all the data.
of trial design and data accumulated and the way that data was
Q76 Mr Cox: The Irish trial was reviewed,
was it not, by Professor Godfray against whom I appreciate you
have already registered a number of criticisms? He presented a
report of the four areas culling trial in which he and his panel
expressed themselves to be entirely satisfied, not necessarily
with the entire quantitative data, but with the conclusion that
very significant results had been achieved.
Professor Bourne: Which is totally
consistent with the report we presented to ministers and consistent
with exactly what we are saying now.
Q77 Mr Cox: There we sit with the
farming community looking across the Irish Sea and seeing that,
with a will, with a different social attitude to quote the expression
that your report uses, genuine, significant effects can be made
with the instrument of culling. That is how they will see it,
is it not?
Professor Bourne: Of course. Let
me remind you: in the report we do make the point that elimination
of badgers, or culling to virtual elimination cannot make an impact.
We accept that elimination of badgers would make an impact if
it was achievable. Let me take you back to 1999 when we started
this work. It was made very clear to us by ministers of the dayand
they have not refuted it sincethat elimination of badgers
over large tracts of the countryside was not an option for future
Q78 Mr Cox: Is it not the function
Professor Bourne: It was on that
basis that we designed the trial. We also had to take into account
welfare considerations with respect to method of culling used
and limitations on culling with respect to ensuring that cubs
were not killed or died underground.
Q79 Mr Cox: You had a closed season.
Professor Bourne: Yes. Those were
the clear, political limitations that we operated under. I have
no reason to believe that those political limitations have been