BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle

In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.

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In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.

The statement was following a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 “How did the Irish badger cull play out?”

The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.

Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease.

This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent ‘success’ of killing badgers in Ireland. In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:

“Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they’ve gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast.”

Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media. Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.

“Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?

“The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they’ve been allowed to get away with it. The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it’s very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda.”

The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.


From a BBC Trust spokeswoman:

“We do not comment on leaks. This finding is due to be published later this month; it is a finding in relation to the accuracy of a BBC News Online article about the Irish badger cull, it is not a judgement about badger culling.”


3 Responses to BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle

  1. Clued-Up Mar 6, 2014 at 14:55

    There’s been a thoroughly depressing lack of critical thinking and willingness to do basic research and ask sensible questions by the media generally and by MPs. All of the information these people need is easily available and widely published on the net and elsewhere.

    Why didn’t the media and MPs ask why beef cattle are 5 times less likely than dairy cattle in the same locality (with the same badger population) to come down with bTB? Why haven’t they asked why there isn’t a Scottish problem with cattle bTB though Scots badgers abound?

    Why haven’t they asked why Wales – testing all its cattle every 6 months, insisting on pre-testing cattle before they are shown in agricultural shows or sold on, etc – has succeeded in reducing its cattle bTB by 23% in 2 years whereas England – with much looser cattle controls – has only reduced its cattle bTB by less than 10%?

  2. Len Hall Mar 6, 2014 at 13:29

    Neil Parish, the Tory MP was only yesterday on Channel 4 News, saying that badger culling in the ROI had led to a large drop in the incidence of BTB in cattle

  3. Nigel M Mar 6, 2014 at 11:08

    Any independent, free-thinking individual could surely see the logic behind this cull was flawed from the word go. Captain Paterson was warned but held his course until his ship hit the iceberg.

    The whole issue was deeply controversial, so surely DEFRA would have taken the opportunity on the first day of the cull to prove their case to a sceptical public with photographic or medical proof of the supposedly bTB-ridden badger corpses, to say “there you are, we told you so”. But they made no attempt to do so, and the reason is obvious – they have no proof and they were wrong.

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