Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 462)



  Q460  Mr Cox: I accept for my own part, representing an area which is a hotspot area, that culling probably is not a solution to the national problem in the sense that we have identified some problems with it, but as a potential instrument, properly co-ordinated, Professor Bourne, which you described, in areas where you can define not perfect but reasonably hard boundaries, it makes no sense, Sir David King was saying, to rule it out, does it? In a hotspot area where we have an intense infective area, hard boundaries—

  Professor Bourne: But if you pursue that approach you have to recognise that there will be winners, there will be losers and there will be disease spread. That is inevitable, and that assumes that the culling is done effectively and systematically.

  Q461  Mr Cox: Quite, in the ways you have described?

  Professor Bourne: To expect farmers to do that under licence we believe is not realistic.

  Q462  Mr Cox: But there I think we can agree. The truth is that I do not think anybody is suggesting that farmers should be allowed to stumble around in the dark with shotguns or any other means. This has got to be a concerted, orderly cull.

  Professor Bourne: But this is precisely what the consultation document did suggest, which is why we have caveated our recommendations on the basis that badger removal has no part to play in control of cattle disease, short of elimination or virtual elimination of the badger population over large areas of the countryside. I think that is the nub of the issue. I would have been far more impressed with Sir David's paper had he recognised the non-reality of culling over small areas to impact on the national trend, but if one is to grasp the nettle one has to do this over very large areas to influence national incidence. He has shown you a map of the incidence; I did not see it but I am sure I know what it is, but one is talking about 25,000 square kilometres. You seriously have to ask the question, is culling, in the way that it can be done and in a way that can be achieved, effective? If you believe it is, it is important that you then start looking at the cost effectiveness of that.

  Chairman: I am going to draw the line there because that is a good point at which to conclude these discussions. Can I thank you again for coming back. You have been kind enough to come and give us the benefit of your views. We have done our best to understand. I do not think we necessarily would be able to complete a paper that you might want to set about our degree of understanding of all the statistical analysis, but I think we have got a clear message about where you are coming from. Can I also again reiterate my thanks to Professor Woolhouse and Sir David King for coming so quickly to give us the benefit of their views and may I send my early commiserations to Lord Rooker who has to digest everything that has been said, and he is the one who will have to make a decision, but we hope that we will have our report out ahead of that moment when he makes his mind up to give him the benefit of our views. Thank you all very much indeed.

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