Professor David Macdonald has criticized the government’s badger culls for failing to achieve targets.
Professor Macdonald is the founder and current Director of the University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, as well as chairman of the government’s Natural England scientific advisory board.
The culls began last year when trials were authorized for Somerset and West Gloucestershire, killing an estimated 65 per cent and 39 per cent of local badgers respectively. The aim of the culls is to eventually eradicate Tuberculosis in cattle.
According to Professor Macdonald these trials were not sufficiently successful as the target was a 70% reduction. He commented that “following this epic failure it is hard to see how continuing this approach could be justified”.
A second Oxford academic, Professor Tim Coulson, has also criticized government ministers. When speaking to the BBC, Professor Coulson stated, “If culling worked I’d be fully supportive of them [Defra, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs] rolling it out, but all the evidence is that it does not.” Professor Coulson is a member of the Independent Expert Panel, which was tasked by the government to advise it on the pilot culls.
The Farming Minister has recently proposed badger vaccination programs, suggesting that the current policy of culling badgers may eventually be reversed. Other alternative policies such as culling cattle have also been proposed by a research-paper published in the science journal, Nature.
However the government still plans to continue the ongoing pilot culls. A Natural England spokesperson has told Cherwell, “Natural England’s position [remains] to support the Government’s bTB [bovine Tuberculosis] eradication policy through the issuing and administering of badger control licences.”