PM Sunak contradicts his legal position on badger culling. Further Labour comments reported too.

On 18th June, the BBC ran a story about Rishi Sunak on the election trail at an event In North Devon, where he was asked a question about his intentions concerning badger culling, should he remain Prime Minister.

Badger culling was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto, but he laid his cards on the table, answering “culls have to be part of the solution”. The BBC wrote, “Mr Sunak said bTB outbreaks are at their lowest in 20 years and “part of that is because of the success of the badger culls.” The statement was confirmed by a video tape released by Farmers Guardian on the same day.

Sunak went on to say that “badger culls have brought down TB by just over 50%. That shows that the culls are working.” This despite the ink being hardly dry on a legal letter from Defra admitting that decline in TB cannot be attributed to badger culling and that not too much should be read into the Secretary of State saying so in the foreword of the recent consultation! This is a key point in the legal challenge that will move forwards shortly.

The current Government badger culling is based on the APHA’s publication Birch et al. (2024), published February this year. However, Mr Sunak is wrong to attribute reduction of disease incidence to badger culling. The new publication does not do this. Authors of Birch acknowledge (on careful reading) that the overall result cannot be attributed to badger culling: all disease measures implemented, including extensive testing, were analysed together. Crucially the expected comparison of culled and unculled areas was missing making the study of low or arguably no inference, given there was also some key missing information and over-simplifications. It is more likely that the cattle measures are causing reduction in disease than badger culling, because decline began well before culling was rolled out and in response to the introduction of annual SICCT testing in 2010. Other cattle-based  measures were also introduced alongside culling.

Likewise, the BBC which has extensive ‘previous’ with mis-reporting of the badger culls, was wrong to state (again presumably from Birch et al) that badger culling cut bTB breakdowns by 56% after four years. A 56% reduction cannot be attributed to badger culling, as explained above, because that study was not designed to and was incapable of asking that question.

Mr Sunak said the Conservatives were “the only party at this election” committed to maintaining the cull. If this is the case, his seems to be the only party prepared to consistently misinterpret the science and misinform others about it.

Today the I News has mentioned what Labour might do, claiming culling might not be ended this year and also misquoting the Birch paper – you can see what a good job the government have done on fooling the media – good evidence for the legal challenge to the Consultation.

The outlet teased:

i understands a Labour government will not interfere with existing contracts to carry out culling

and that a Labour spokesman said:“

“The next Labour Government is committing to ending the badger cull and eradicating TB. We will work with farmers and scientists to introduce a TB eradication package rolling out vaccination, herd management and biosecurity programs to protect farmers’ livelihoods so we can end the killing of badgers.”

Is this a row-back on the earlier statement about the cull being ineffective? Difficult to say without clear evidence. What can be said is that a letter was sent today to Natural England and Defra asking for the the May licences and authorisations to be immediately revoked and for intensive culling to be ended too. After all, if they are ineffective as stated last week, they are unlawful.