Watch out if you live in Crymych, Cilgerran or St Dogmaels

Mike Joseph gives six reasons why the Welsh Government’s badger cull should be stopped

If Peter Black’s motion fails to annul the Badger (Control Area)(Wales) Order 2011, in the National Assembly tomorrow, a week later on 31 March publication of this article in north-east Pembrokeshire will become illegal. This remarkable assault on free speech arises because, according to the Welsh Government:

“Welsh Ministers are satisfied that tuberculosis exists in the wild badger population in the control area; that the disease has been or is being transmitted from badgers to cattle in that area and that the destruction of wild badgers in that area is necessary in order to eliminate or substantially reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in animals of any kind in that area.”

Clause 4 of this Order  – which is Elin Jones’ second attempt to legislate, the first having been quashed in the Appeal Court last July – bans the protection of badgers “with intent to prevent their destruction”, bans interference with anything done in connection with that destruction, and, critically, bans action that may “aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit such an act.”

This article summarises six decisive reasons why every possible legal means should be taken to prevent the destruction of Pembrokeshire’s badgers. It counsels you to protect badgers, and therefore publication of this article in the ‘control area’ between Cardigan, Newport and Cwm Cych will become an offence. As far as is known, the Order does not prevent freedom of speech in the rest of Wales. No doubt several governments in the Middle and Far East can supply highly targeted firewall software to censor this page for internet users in Crymych, Cilgerran and St Dogmaels.


Culling badgers doesn’t work

In 1998 the Labour Government commissioned the Randomised Badger Culling Trial from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, the largest ever scientific investigation of the impact of badger culling on bovine TB. Their Final Report in 2007 published astonishing conclusions:

“While badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB… badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”.

The Group’s Chair, Professor John Bourne, wrote to Secretary of State David Miliband:

“Indeed some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better… weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease.”

And he concluded:

“The rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.”

Killing many badgers in a cull area causes chaos amongst survivors – the Welsh Government expects 600 to survive in North Pembrokeshire. Territories collapse, survivors range more widely, confronting badgers coming in from outside the cull zone to colonise new territory. Badger injuries and TB infection rates all rise. Around the cull zone and for at least two kilometres beyond it, more cattle are then infected. Any benefits of reduced transmission at the heart of the cull area are offset by increased transmission around the perimeter. This ‘perturbation’ explains the Independent Scientific Group’s remarkable conclusions. Chris Cheeseman of the UK Government’s Central Science Laboratory says:

“…perturbation is a profound negative influence of culling wildlife which managers involved in wildlife disease ignore at their peril”.

Since 2007, follow-up studies by Independent Scientific Group scientists have not changed their conclusions. So, for example a 2010 paper by one of them, Christl Donnelly, concludes:

“Our findings show that the reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain.”


The Welsh Government misrepresents the science

After the Appeal Court quashed the first Order, the Welsh Government was required to consult people in the cull area on their views on its strategy. They sent every home in north-east Pembrokeshire a booklet entitled Bovine TB is a huge problem for Wales which states:

“Experts agree that tackling the disease in badgers is necessary if we are to succeed in eradicating TB. Culling badgers can substantially reduce TB in cattle”.

Of course, experts state exactly the opposite. But to support its claim, the booklet prominently quotes just the preamble of Donnelly’s 2010 paper:

“In the British Isles control of cattle tuberculosis (TB) is hindered by persistent infection of wild badger populations”.

However, it does NOT quote its conclusion (see above). The booklet effectively misrepresents the science to the people of north-east Pembrokeshire.

At a news conference on 20 September 2010, the Welsh Government’s Chief Vet Christianne Glossop said to me:

“The Randomised Badger Culling Trial is the only study ever to describe perturbation. There is no other source for this claim. Perturbation is not an issue”.

Chris Cheeseman responds:

“Glossop’s assertion … is not true. There are several references in the scientific literature that relate to studies carried out separately to the Randomised Badger Culling Trial… Dr Glossop is, at best, being highly selective in the evidence …”

At a public debate on 9 November  2010, the Independent Scientific Group chair John Bourne stated:

“Farmers are being led up the garden path”.


… and say No

Despite the Welsh Government’s questionable presentation of the scientific evidence to the public, the result of the formal consultation is clear. The Government reports:

“7.1  There  was  considerable  interest in this consultation exercise with 13,431 responses  being  received”.

“10.1  2110 respondents believe that culling badgers can achieve a reduction in bovine TB incidence in cattle, to justify its use.”

So the Welsh Government has succeeded in persuading just 15.7 per cent of respondents to its consultation that a badger cull is justified.

Which means it has failed to persuade 84.3 per cent.

In a democracy, you would expect a government policy of mass killing of a protected native species, compulsory access to objectors’ land, and prohibition of the expression of dissent to require the consent of more than 15.7 per cent. What does this say about our fledgling Welsh democracy?


Cattle controls are working

The Independent Scientific Group chair Professor John Bourne wrote in 2007:

“The rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.”

Since the Welsh Government introduced a strict cattle movement and testing regime in north Pembrokeshire, the local bovine TB rate has fallen, with the number of cattle slaughtered in Dyfed reducing substantially:

2008 – 8361

2009 – 6981

2010 – 4634

Compensation paid for cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB in the planned cull area has also fallen in the same period as the following figures testify:

2008 – £4,125,020

2009 – £2,158,230

2010 – £1,427,504

Professor Bourne was right. Why jeopardise this successful policy now with a cull that is “likely to make matters worse”?


Vaccination – they do it in England

Eight days before the Appeal Court quashed Elin Jones’ first Order last July, the UK Government started trials of a badger vaccine over the border in Gloucestershire. Elin’s first Order included a provision for vaccination as an alternative to killing. Her new Order has no such provision.

Vaccination immediately benefits the 70-85 per cent of badgers that are disease-free. As infected badgers die, a vaccination programme steadily increases the percentage of immune badgers, all without causing perturbation, and therefore with no increase in infectivity. By contrast, the government’s plan to cull 70 per cent of badgers in north Pembrokeshire will leave the remaining 30 per cent at increased risk of infection through perturbation.

Rather than killing 1,000 healthy badgers for no sound purpose, wouldn’t a humane society choose to protect them from a fatal disease, and simultaneously take badgers out of the cattle infection cycle?


Perturbing English farmers

Bovine TB has been a serious problem in several Welsh regions, including areas adjacent to the English border. But Elin Jones’ own advisers warned against locating a cull in Powys, in the following terms:

“It would not be advisable to locate [a cull] area near the England and Wales border due to … possible perturbation effects for farmers across the border.”

They recognised the political fallout if English badgers were perturbed by a Welsh cull –  how much more perturbed might English farmers and politicians be?

“For these reasons, and taking basic infectious disease control principles as well as security issues into account the Board recommended that the area is centred in North Pembrokeshire …”

While the Welsh Government could not risk exposing English farmers to the risk of perturbation, they are content to let Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire farmers shoulder the risk.

But even here, the Appeal Court has come to the Minister’s aid: her first Order covered the whole of Wales, and would have legalised a cull in Powys. The Appeal Judges pointed out that by restricting a new Order simply to the cull area, the Minister will be entitled to claim the TB reduction inside the cull zone, “and to disregard the adverse effect on the area outside the cull area”.

So despite the science, despite the risks for farmers, despite public opinion, despite the notable success of cattle measures,  despite the threat to Pembrokeshire tourism, despite the threat to social cohesion, despite the infringement of human rights, the Welsh Government will have its cull.

Are we perturbed?

Mike Joseph is a broadcaster, writer and historian and an Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University.

18 thoughts on “Watch out if you live in Crymych, Cilgerran or St Dogmaels

  1. I had not focussed at all on the arguments for and against the cull before reading this. But if the points made here can be taken at face value, then I am certainly at least provisionally perturbed by the actions that the Welsh Government is planning to take on this issue. I’d be even more perturbed if I were a farmer in or near the proposed cull area.

    Mike’s arguments would be strengthened if he were able to refer more specifically to the other research that has described perturbation in badger populations as a result of culling (see Chris Cheeseman quote near the end of point 2 above). Is Christine Glossop saying that there is other research which shows that there is no perturbation, or just that there is no other research that shows it? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as they say.

    I’d be fascinated to see a reasoned response from the Welsh Government (or someone else who supports the cull) that makes the opposing case and responds to the points made in the above article.

  2. Fascinating… and of course selective. It seems unlikely that things are quite as clear cut as presented here. No reference to the DEFRA guidance “Veterinary assessment of
    the risk factors associated with proactive badger culling” which shows that there is much less certainty in the “science” that we are led to believe and that a culling strategy is possible as long as steps are taken to mitigate against possible perturbation. As I understand things, such steps are built into the WAG proposal, therefore a significant plank of the anti-cull argument is weakened. The reduction in TB on farms is the result of many years of hard work, and it is perfectly logical now to follow through with this targetted cull to further dimish the hold this disease has had on one of Pembrokeshire’s main industries. It should be noted that there is pretty much 100% support for the cull amongst commercial farmers in the area in question, therefore the suggestion that WAG are letting them “shoulder the risk” is really a red herring… they want action, not further prevarication.

  3. The Assembly Government’s case for culling badgers was comprehensively demolished by an independent ecologist on Good Morning Wales on 10 March.

    Dr Chris Cheeseman said: “I think the Welsh Assembly Government is on a mission to cull badgers and I’ve come to regard this as politically driven because the science really doesn’t support the cull.”

    A precis of his comments can be read on the BBC website:

  4. Lord Oakeshott recently accused the Treasury of ‘an awful combination of arrogance and incompetence’. I did not realise the Treasury had been mentoring our Minister for Rural Affairs

  5. Seems like nobody knows anything about what the disease is how it really is spread.

    i) Bovine TB is a bacteria
    ii) It is created by microbiological activity in the slurry pit or tank
    iii)The slurry is sprayed onto land
    iv) Both cow and badger are ground feeders and can aquire the bacteria through feeding
    v) Their is no hard evidence that cows pass to other cows or badger to cow or cow to badger. Just conjecture.
    vi) The disease is a man-made disease. The result of intensive agriculture. Fields are not rotated yearly. They are used intensively or every year by slurry fertilisation causing an imbalance and disease.

  6. I am keeping my head down on most aspects of the cull debate due to the intensity of feelings here. However, I think one point needs to be questioned in Jogger’s post:

    Bovine TB is not ‘created’ in a slurry pit or tank. It could certainly prosper there, but bacteria does not spontaneously emerge, it comes from somewhere.

    The great challenge therefore ought to be to break the cycle that gets bacteria into the slurry and from there getting it spread onto fields.

    How much hard research has been carried out on getting the Bovine TB bacteria out of the slurry cycle?

  7. Jogger – an interesting idea, and one that was being discussed on farms in North Pembrokeshire by vets and farmers a good decade ago to my personal knowledge. The problem with it is that it doesn’t explain how bTB then enters a herd where there has been no previous incidence and which shouldn’t have “infected” slurry.

    The value of the cull, against the background of years of ever-tighter on-farm testing and monitoring is that we will be provided with data that may give us a far better idea of how this disease is being spread. I am surprised that so many people who quote “science” in opposing the cull are in fact afraid of a thorough field trial against which many of the arguments coming from both sides can be properly tested.

  8. Crefishgyn takes to task those ‘many people who quote “science” in opposing the cull [who] are in fact afraid of a thorough field trial against which many of the arguments coming from both sides can be properly tested.’

    Crefishgyn’s wish is already granted. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial is exactly what he calls for. By a long way it is the most thorough field trial of badger culling ever undertaken. That is why the Welsh Government has no option but endlessly to quote it, and also the follow-up work of scientists from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB who ran the Trials.

    To the surprise and dismay of the pro-cull lobby, the ISG concluded that ‘while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.’

    That is why the Welsh Government is obliged not only to refer to the RBCT, but to misrepresent its conclusions. And that is why ISG Chair Professor John Bourne says ‘Farmers are being led up the garden path’.

    Crefishgyn hopes that a cull ‘may give us a far better idea of how this disease is being spread’. He hopes in vain. The Welsh Government itself confirms that the cull is ‘not an academic exercise and that multiple measures would be implemented which made evaluation of the individual parts difficult’. This admission is published by the Welsh Government here. As no lessons can be learnt, no lessons can be applied elsewhere.

    Crefishgyn is rightly suspicious of selective information from dubious sources (‘Fascinating… and of course selective. It seems unlikely that things are quite as clear cut as presented here.’) So where do I get the rest of my information from?

    On Glossop’s denial of perturbation studies (this also answers Sion GW Jones’ inquiry) here is Chris Cheeseman in full:

    ‘Glossop’s assertion that “The randomised badger cull trial is the only one ever to describe perturbation. There is no other source for this claim.” is not true.

    There are several references in the scientific literature that relate to studies carried out separately to the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT). Here are three examples:

    1. Tuyttens, F.A.M., Macdonald, D.W., Rogers, L.M. Cheeseman, C.L. & Roddam, A.W. (2000) Comparative study on the consequences of culling badgers (Meles meles) on biometrics, population dynamics and movement. Journal of Animal Ecology, 69, 567-580.
    2. Carter, S., Delahay, R., Smith, G., Macdonald, D., Riordan, P., Pimley, E. & Cheeseman, C. (2007) Culling-induced social perturbation in Eurasian badgers Meles meles and the management of TB in cattle: an analysis of a critical problem in applied ecology. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) 274, 2769-2777.
    3. McDonald, R.A. Delahay, R.J., Carter, S.C., Smith, G.C. & Cheeseman, C.L. (2008) Perturbing implications of wildlife ecology for disease control. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 892, 1-4.

    Even if Dr Glossop does not read such scientific papers, published in peer-reviewed prestigious journals, the clue can be found in the titles.’

    The public’s rejection by 84% to 16% of the Welsh Government’s case for culling badgers is reported by the Welsh Government in its report on the formal consultation exercise.

    The near-halving of cattle slaughter numbers in Dyfed since the introduction of cattle controls is reported by Defra and published on the Defra website.

    The warning by Elin Jones’ own advisers against culling on the English border because of the perturbation risk to English farmers is published by the Welsh Government here.

    For a fuller discussion of these issues, see my article A Perturbation in Planet, issue 201, February 2011.

    The Order will permanently restrict free discussion of these issues in the cull area. It will no longer be permitted to urge, as Chris Cheeseman does, that ‘if I were a farmer on the edge of the proposed culling area in Pembrokeshire … I would be so seriously worried that I would also devote a great deal of effort through legal means into trying to prevent the cull happening’.

  9. I am rather mystified, as someone who was brought up in an agricultural area, and worked on farms where cattle were culled due to TB, to find people who value Badgers above Cattle.

    Badgers have no economic value. Cows do! Families’ lives can be ruined by the introduction of TB into the herd, and there have been many instances of closed herds being infected with TB where the only possible vector has been badgers.

    If we were talking about rats here, there would be no dissent, but because badgers are perceived ‘cuddly’ they are beyond reproach. Anthropomorphic rubbish!

  10. “I am surprised that so many people who quote “science” in opposing the cull are in fact afraid of a thorough field trial against which many of the arguments coming from both sides can be properly tested.”

    But the IAA cull would not be “a thorough field trial” – there is no control area, and as both cattle controls and badger culling would be trialled simultaneously there would be no way to tell which, if any, had produced any observed decline in cattle TB.

  11. Gavin- I disagree. The cattle controls are well established, having been in place for several years now. The impact, or non-impact, of a badger cull would be easily measurable.

    Mike – you deserve credit for being persistent and well-informed, but I fear that you are putting far too much store in the results of tests undertaken in different contexts. DEFRA speak with far less certainty about the significance of previous work than yourself. As for the location of the pilot cull so far away from the English border… it is evident that the Welsh Government strategy has provisions to deal with perturbation, but they could not implement those if the effect occurred across the border in another country. There is no evil intent – it is just a practicality of managing the exercise.

    I am slightly puzzled today by your information that there has been a marked decline in incidence of bTB in Dyfed in recent years. Yesterday the BBC reported official figures that show a 44% rise in reported cases within the proposed cull area. It is evident to anyone who takes an interest in the matter in North Pembrokeshire that bTB is endemic and a decade of ever tighter on-farm controls has not changed that reality. The cull is needed in North Pembrokeshire and we need to be able to analyse the results.

  12. What about some bovine displacement therapy?
 Perhaps if we are not able to come to an agreeable conclusion that farming can be carried out in harmony with the environment (as the badger issue is proving) then maybe we need to reconsider contemporary farming (dairy and beef in particular) and its true ‘value’ to society. Certainly this is a discussion that I will be taking up with friends and acquaintances in the Pembrokeshire, Cardigan and Carmarthenshire areas. 

Here is an idea: Perhaps we need to remove bovines from the IAA. How could this be achieved? Well there are certainly lots of landowners in the area that do not derive their main income from farming but allow local farmers to either graze bovines on their land or sell hay/fodder to farmers. This situation, which has probably been amicable in the past will clearly need to be reviewed by those that own land but do not wish to be a part of the ‘bovines at any cost’ scenario that the Welsh Government think farmers and society want. 

Politics, it would seem, has been proven (with the vote in the Senedd yesterday) to have let the wider society down in its favouring business over social justice. 

If the bovine displacement idea is successful in the IAA, it could then be rolled out across Britain to any area where farmers are not prepared or able to live in harmony with the environment. 

If you care about badgers and wildlife and you own land, then give some serious consideration to not renting the land to farmers who operate commercial bovines. Also don’t sell them hay or fodder. If you don’t own land then consider investing in some. Then keep bovine farmers off it until the farming unions are forced to change their stance (hopefully by the farmers that they claim to represent). It may be the long game but we need to get started.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not a farmer hater but the government has let us all down so we now need to take the message to the fields.

  13. Most responses above debate the pros and cons of badger culling. The key and most disturbing point re Mike’s article is the apparent restriction of free speech in the IAA. It appears that I can stand on the north side of Llechryd bridge and shout across the river encouraging my neighbour to save the badgers on his farm with no problem. HOWEVER if I dare to cross the bridge and say the same thing BANG I could be arrested and charged.What sort of country do we live in?

  14. “The publication of this article in north-east Pembrokeshire will become illegal” ?? Can you specifically explain how this article will constitute a breach of the Order? Or is this just convenient scaremongering, just like the hype over the civil rights implications of government forcibly accessing land to cull badgers, made without a mention of the fact that land can already be accessed to cull other animals for the same disease control reasons? The truth is that this is such a bizarre interpretation of the Order that it undermines the credibility of everything else in the article, which is hardly surprising since, if the cull does not reduce confirmed TB incidences, it will be the first time that properly implemented proactive culling has ever failed to do so in the past 40 years. The issue is therefore a subjective one where moral opinions colour views, and genuine respectable arguments are based upon whether culling is worth it in terms of cost, and the benefit in terms of TB reductions (although if we based disease control on simple cost-benefit analyses we would probably close most of our hospitals). And in case anyone is concerned about the impact on the local economy due to a drop in tourist numbers, they should bear in mind that any impact is likely to be the result of Pembrokeshire Against the Cull having deliberately targeted tourists with leaflet campaigns and encouraged people to put up ‘Warning! Badger Cull Area’ posters. The truth is that they are happy to impact on local tourism and the local economy so long as it helps them save badgers.

  15. Siôn Jones, you say, “Badgers have no economic value – cows do”
    This is only true to the extent that there is no market where you can buy or sell badgers. But badgers most certainly do have economic value, both directly, to the local economy, and indirectly, as part of the UK’s ecosystem. There are strong economic arguments against culling badgers:
    Firstly, implementing the cull itself is likely to cost Welsh taxpayers more than the compensation being paid out to farmers.
    Secondly, culling badgers will inflict economic damage on Pembrokeshire families who depend on rural tourism, which is an important part of the economy of the IAA. These economic costs may well turn out to exceed the costs of TB to the dairy industry. Dairy farmers who have diversified into holiday lets may suffer a double whammy, at risk of losing cows and visitors both.
    Thirdly, Badgers are a native species that is an important part of the UK’s ecosystems. Loss of biological diversity is a major concern for the global economy – so much so that at the Potsdam meeting of the environment ministers of the “G8 countries plus five” in March 2007, it was agreed to set up a major study on the economic significance of the global loss of biological diversity. This is the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, led by a senior banker from Deutsche Bank, and hosted by UNEP with financial support from the European Commission, Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Japan. The results published so far make a compelling case to protect wild species. (see
    In the past, badgers and other native wildlife were persecuted as vermin and their habitats polluted or destroyed. Now we know better. Lumping together badgers and rats is about as appropriate as comparing bees to bedbugs. Protecting the UK’s native species and their habitats brings economic benefits for the entire country.

  16. How can the responses of those of us who are appalled and miserable about the persecution of these admirable creatures be rallied and used to combat this cruel, ignorant abuse?

  17. The elephant in the room is the EU which will not allow vaccination of cattle for TB. Slaughter policies are vicious and unnecessary. Poultry used to be slaughtered if they contracted Newcastle Disease, (Fowl Pest). Ultimately it became so costly with compensation, that vaccination was introduced several years ago. Result – no problems with Newcastle Disease any more. Farmers are indeed being misled, but understandably the trauma of slaughtering good animals, leads them to push for the badger cull, which they are falsely told will solve the problem.

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