Can we trust Truss? Where is the evidence?

“So, badger culls are working?  Liz Truss produce your evidence!”

This was Oliver Tickell’s headline as he reported in the Ecologist on 18 December that, according to the Minister “the badger culls are working”, try as he might it seems that like many scientists or even agnostics he could not locate any science to underpin or validate the ministerial assertion.  Like many others he drew to readers attention the release of Government information ….

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

Bovine TB: summary of badger control monitoring during 2015 was published on 17 December 2015, the day before the Parliamentary Recess.

Defra also released Quarterly publication of National Statistics on the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in Cattle in Great Britain – to end September 2015 on 9 December.

Another interesting read is a [Select Committee] report on Defra’s performance 2014 – 2015 “Managing threats”  Crucially in para. 30 there is a clear statement that ‘a cost-benefit calculation must be made in each policy area on how upfront investment can provide value for money by minimising the longer-term costs, such as those arising from a significant flood event or animal disease outbreak’.  So, aside from the headline figures contained within the report where is the detail, where is the CBA?

The Government’s own data shows an increase in new incidents in the twelve months to September 2015 of 7.75% and this despite culls having taken place in Somerset for the past three years. Costs of this have been estimated at as much as £16m, one might be forgiven for asking if the increase in incidences and absence of any evidence of cost benefit analysis then is a programme of continued culls justified? Other estimates calculate the cost at around £20m of tax payers money. The only ‘evidence’ Ms Truss is able to offer appears to be anecdotal promulgated by the NFU?  See also Ecologist article which offers insight on some of the ‘science’ offered by the NFU. Para. 40 [Select Committee report] states that ‘Sound science is essential to provide a robust evidence base for decisions on policies to tackle diseases’. So, again we ask – where is the evidence base to justify continued public spend on a continuing programme of culls?

Ms Truss’s predecessor Owen Patterson put the cull programme on hold amid criticism and mounting evidence of failure, but Ms Truss carries on regardless determined to achieve a 2019 target of being bTB free by relaxing restrictions for future badger culls.

We struggle to understand why, given the assertions that the areas chosen for the culls are rife with bTB, why those promoting the cull and insisting that it is working have not tested any dead badgers to prove their assertions? Imagine credibility ratings if that were undertaken?  The question, we offer, being whose?  It might be that Ministerial credibility will be seriously tested following recent extreme weather, much more than words will be needed to persuade the public of scientific credibility and financial proberty and ultimately, competence?

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Wildlife and farmers deserve better ….

We need a government fit for purpose ….

 

 

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