Cuts Watch #96: Badger Research
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced that the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project will be cut back, reflecting “both the changed policy position and the need to consider carefully all public expenditure.” The project was originally planned to begin this summer in six areas, testing the effectiveness in controlling bovine TB of trapping and vaccinating badgers. One project will still go ahead, to give the government the ability to introduce such a scheme on a wider basis if policy changes.
There has been a long-running controversy about whether badgers are responsible for bovine TB and whether culling them would be an effective response. The National Farmers’ Union has been a strong advocate of culling, whilst conservationists have been opposed. In 2007, the government Chief Scientist supported a cull but more recent research has suggested that culls fail to halt the spread of TB in cattle.
As Secretary of State, Hilary Benn refused to implement a cull and instead ordered the vaccine programme. In opposition, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats supported a cull, and James Paice, the new Secretary of State has announced a “science-led cull of badgers in England to combat bTB in cattle.” The cancelling of the vaccination programme is thus an example of the cuts being used to justify a policy that had already been decided for other reasons.