BADGERS and bovine TB.

The science underlying this topic is highly complex.

This has led to information being deviously manipulated by those who want to cull badgers, whereupon they seize on scraps of data to misrepresent in support of culling while ignoring the overwhelming evidence against it.

As such it has descended into a propaganda exercise by the National Farmers’ Union to win support for culling and distract attention from the real problem.

The truth is that the persistence of TB in cattle is largely due to the continuing spread of the disease among the cattle themselves.

Scientists at Imperial College London estimate that less than six per cent of cattle TB outbreaks are due directly to badgers.

Wales has reduced cattle TB incidence by almost a half in just five years by more rigorous testing of cattle.

While England lags behind, the Westminster Government continues with its badger culling policy, despite two successive years of failure on both efficacy and welfare grounds.

And the cost?

The two pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have cost the taxpayer a staggering £15million in just two years.

The government has consistently shown a wilful disregard for the science in its pursuit of badger culling.

The government estimates that badger culling will, at best, lead to a 12 to 16 per cent drop in cattle TB over nine years, while many experts predict that due to significant changes in protocol it may actually make TB in cattle and badgers worse.

As a result, we have to ask why our politicians are pursuing such an ill-conceived strategy.

Fortunately there are people who are not prepared to tolerate this contemptuous attitude towards our native wildlife for political ends.

I recently joined a number of other scientists and veterinarians in writing to David Cameron to express our deep concerns about the government’s TB policy: The reply was disappointing and gave no indication of the changes that are so desperately needed.

Dr Chris Cheeseman

Badger Ecologist and former government adviser