What does it mean to say TB strategy is ‘working’?

Environment Secretary Liz Truss told parliament on 17th December that the governments TB strategy was ‘working’, with the three 2015 cull zones hitting their targets. The Ecologist says this is not about the strategy’s effectiveness in tackling TB, but just how many badgers have been killed.

Badger Trust CEO Dominic Dyer complains that government figures on TB do not have the detail needed to assess the impacts of the cull, and suggests they may actually show the culls are not ‘working’ at all.

DEFRA also published new documents including monitoring of the 2015 culls, a summary of the consultation on cull licenses, and new guidance on cull licensing.

These documents show that the government has decided to relax the restrictions on culling in 2016. As reported in The Guardian,  ‘The initial restrictions imposed on badger culling were to ensure 70% of badgers were killed and included having access to 70% of cull land, a six-week time limit on the cull and a minimum size of cull area. The government has now decided to abandon the time limit and access requirement and to reduce the minimum cull area.’

If this is only a box-ticking exercise, these changes could make it even easier to say the strategy is ‘working’, while actually having a negative effect on cattle TB control. “Cheaper and easier culls are much less beneficial and can make cattle TB worse rather than better” said Professor Rosie Woodroffe from the Zoological Society of London.