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article imageBritish scientists to check on controversial badger culls

By Tim Sandle     Nov 4, 2014 in Science
The British Ecological Society has offered to scientifically evaluate the controversial badger culling trials taking place in the U.K. The idea is to provide some unbiased data.
The culling of badgers in the U.K. has been instigated, after some debate, by the British government. Those opposed to the culling have claimed that there has been no "independent" scientific oversight of the culling, especially to assess whether the intended aims of the destruction of the animals has proved effective.
So, what are the intended aims? Badgers in certain areas have been targeted for destruction because some environmental scientists believe that badgers spread bovine tuberculosis to cattle, and that this leads to the widespread death of infected cows. Badgers, if they are the agent for the disease, transfer the disease to cattle through their urine, feces or through droplet infection, in the farmyard or in cattle pastures.
This approach is not supported by all. Some groups argue that shooting badgers is cruel, and many after left maimed, only to die in agony later. Others question the effectiveness of the policy and instead argue for vaccination of badgers.
It is the question of effectiveness that explains the offer made by the British Ecological Society, according to the BBC. This is because the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), a branch of the British government,, has scrapped plans to set up an independent panel to evaluate the effectiveness of the culls. Instead the government will simply release its own data.
Concerned about this, Ken Wilson, Jean-Michel Gaillard and Ben Sheldon, of the British Ecological Society, have written a letter to the government. In the letter the professors' offer:
"Transparent and independent review of the available evidence using our extensive international network of reviewers, comprising scientists with acknowledged expertise in wildlife population monitoring and management, as well as expert statisticians and modellers."
No response has yet been received from the British government.
More about Badgers, culls, Ecology
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