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BBC complaint ruling destroys claims that Ireland badger cull has reduced TB

Claims that badger culling in Ireland has contributed to a fall in bovine TB (bTB) rates have been blown out of the water by a significant BBC ruling.

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Claims that badger culling in Ireland has contributed to a fall in bovine TB (bTB) rates have been blown out of the water by a significant BBC ruling. The ruling, released today by the BBC Trust, means that a key cornerstone of the British Government’s justification for a cull in England has been destroyed.

The story, by David Gregory-Kumar, suggested that ‘a badger cull can help control the disease’. However, after a complaint from a member of the public, the BBC analysed the evidence used to come up with that conclusion. Their ruling, while saying that the story hadn’t deliberately intended to mislead the public, summarised:

that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise as it suggested that the badger cull is a factor in helping control the disease when it is not possible to be definitive on this issue. While the data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, 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.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said that the ruling was crucial to the ongoing justification of the government that culling in Ireland works, therefore it will work in England.

“The government have been telling the public for a long time that culling badgers is both required, and effective, and they have been citing Ireland has a prime example of this. We’ve been saying all along that it simply isn’t the case – and this decision by the BBC justifies what we’ve been saying.

“What’s more, 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. But no longer. We hope that now, if any Minister, MP or farming leader tries to use Ireland as an example of effective culling, that journalists and members of the public alike will stand up and say ‘no, you’re not getting away with that’.

“The truth is, there has been an equal drop in the rate of TB in Northern Ireland – where they have used improved farming measures, and not a single badger has been killed. This suggests that it is in fact farming measures, which they have also used in Ireland, that is reducing the disease – badgers have got nothing to do with it.”

The complaint was put in by Tom Langton, a member of the public infuriated by the cull and the story. He said: “I feel that the general public has been misled over the last ten months by stories like this that have had a significant impact in backing up Owen Paterson and the NFU’s flawed science. It is time that the BBC owned up to its role in this, unwitting or not, so that this sorry, disgraceful policy is finally destroyed, and seen for what it actually is.”


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