Union Demands Transparency on Bader Cull Decision

WALES, UK - The Farmers' Union of Wales has demanded transparency and the release of all relevant documents by the Welsh Government after raising concerns about the legal and scientific basis for environment minister John Griffiths' decision to vaccinate rather than cull badgers in the Intensive Action Area (IAA).
calendar icon 3 April 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

The union believes that the minister may have ignored the previous findings of the Court of Appeal in making his decision, and that there is a lack of transparency because important information has been censored from Welsh Government documents placed in the public domain.

During recent meetings with ministers and officials, it was indicated the decision not to proceed with a cull was based on an anticipated reduction in confirmed incidences of 13.4 per cent, which the minister did not believe was sufficiently “substantial” within the meaning of Section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981.

It is also understood that this figure was compared with the results of computer models of the impact of badger vaccination.

But in a letter to Mr Griffiths, FUW president Emyr Jones states: “…the 13.4 per cent figure clearly relates to an area which is larger than the IAA, and includes possible adverse impacts which would only occur if the geographic boundaries around the IAA did not reduce the negative effects seen during the RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial).

"Yet we understand that the Court of Appeal ruled in July 2010 that Section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981 should only apply to 'that area' to which The Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2011 applies - namely the IAA...

“...it is therefore clear that any judgment you made relating to the legality of a cull under Section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981 should have been based upon an anticipated reduction in confirmed incidences of 25.7 per cent, and not 13.4 per cent."

With regard to the comparison of real culling trial results and computer models of vaccination, Mr Jones adds: “…there is currently no scientific, nor, in our opinion, legal basis for making such a direct comparison, since the scientific approaches used to produce such figures are wholly different; one is based upon a simple extrapolation of the outcomes of real badger culls, whereas the other uses a large number of complex and unproven hypotheses to model the actions of individual animals, producing estimates which cannot be compared with real data, because no vaccination field trials have been undertaken.

Mr Jones highlighted the fact that when the same computer model is used to examine culling, it predicts reductions of 30 to 40 per cent.

Mr Jones concludes: “As you know, farmers throughout Wales, and particularly within the IAA, have shown a significant commitment to the TB eradication programme, and had a reasonable expectation that a policy based upon the best predicted outcome would be implemented in the IAA.

"Yet it is clear from all the evidence we have seen to date that this has not happened, and the concerns raised above also highlight major questions regarding the legal considerations upon which your decision was based.

"We therefore believe you have a duty to the Welsh farming industry to explain in detail the scientific and legal reasoning which underpinned your decision, and that, in the interests of transparency, and the credibility of the Welsh Government as a whole, all relevant legal advice you received should be released into the public domain.”

Further Reading

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