In June the Independent Scientific Group on bovine TB published its final report, which concluded that badger culling ‘could not meaningfully contribute’ to the control of bTB in Britain.
But a report published last week by Sir David King (the Government’s chief scientist) pronounced that badger culling could, under certain conditions, make a ‘significant contribution’ to the control of bTB in the hotspot areas. Sir David's statement was based on a review of the ISG report.
On Wednesday the head of the ISG Professor John Bourne and Sir David King were interviewed by the Parliamentary EFRA committee which is carrying its own investigation into the ISG report
Professor Bourne accused Sir David of "cherry picking" data and coming up with hasty and coming up with a "superficial soundbite".
Sir David got a very torrid time from the committee.
EFRA chairman Michael Jack wanted to know, had the group not ‘actually gone out and looked at any of the reality of what you are commenting about on
the ground?’ And why, Labour MP Patrick Hall asked, did they not even bother to interview the ISG members themselves?
Sir David stressed that his group’s job was to give a ‘commentary on a very detailed piece of work’ for Ministers, not to look at fresh evidence'.
He said that the experts on his group had ‘all been engaged over a long period of time on the issue of TB in cattle’ and ‘knew their stuff’. He admitted, however, that it had only met on ‘one full day’.
Sir David claimed he agreed with much of the ISG findings.
He also described Sir David’s approach as ‘cavalier and unsustainable’, something Sir David strongly denied.
This may seem like a pair of scientists having an argument over science. This though matters greatly, Food and Farm Minster Lord Rooker is minded to back a cull but has said he will be guided by the final report of the EFRA committee.
Interestingly the scientific journal Nature has backed Bourne and the ISG and accuses Sir David of mishandling the question of whether to cull badgers.
Of course this is also very complex. In a letter to the excellent British Widlife Magazine, Prof Humphrey Kay (former member of Maff's Badger Panel) backs culling the last paragraph may interest a few of you "The long-term relief to the taxpayer will also extend to Hedgehogs, now reduced to small islands of survival in much of the countryside".
The Ruddy Duck controvery continues. Wigan council gave DEFRA permission for a cull of Ruddy Ducks at Pearson Flash. This was despite strong public protest. The council kept quiet to stop people organising a protest.
The reason for the cull of Ruddies in the UK is that the Spanish believe a small number are migrating and breeding with their native white headed duck, leading to concerns they are weakening the blood line of their indigenous species.