Memorandum submitted by the Former Independent
Scientific Group on Cattle TB
I am pleased to let your Committee have our
considered scientific response to Sir David King's report, in
which he advocates culling badgers as a method of controlling
cattle TB nationally. In our response we summarise some of the
counter-arguments developed in detail in ISG scientific publications.
Sir David has underestimated the powerful arguments showing substantial
negative effects on TB incidence in cattle involved in such culling,
as well as the formidable logistical difficulties which make such
detrimental effects a more likely outcome than the intended benefits.
We believe the report's authors misunderstand
a number of scientific issues and, equally seriously, fail to
take into account the full range of data on which the ISG conclusions
and recommendations to Ministers were based.
An immediate objective of a cattle TB control
policy must be to reduce the national disease incidence. We note
that Sir David has not commented on the various constructive suggestions
made in the ISG reportparticularly those relating to cattle-based
controlsthat we believe would address this objective. The
misunderstanding of our mathematical modelling work is particularly
unfortunate, and likely to have led him to underestimate the likely
benefits of improved cattle based control measures.
Furthermore, to have any positive impact on
this control policy objective, badger culling would need to cover
much of southwest of Britain and would have to be conducted in
a systematic, coordinated way, and sustained for many years. Geographically
restricted culling, even over a number of selected areas of a
hundred square kilometres or more, could be expected to have,
at best, only minimal impact nationally, and would be likely to
make matters worse if its implementation were uncoordinated, unsustained
Professor John Bourne CBE