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Nature slams chief scientist over badger cull demand

[Friday 02 November 2007]
badger under threat
Nature slams chief scientist over badger cull demand

ONE of the world's leading scientific journals, Nature, has slammed the Government's chief scientist, Sir David King, for recommending a cull of badgers.

Nature accuses Sir David King of "mishandling" the question of whether to cull badgers and says that his behaviour "is an example to governments of how not to deal with such advice, once it has been solicited and received".

The respected journal reports that: "... in Britain, scientists have enjoyed a better relationship with their government and - prior to the badgers episode - little evidence has come to light of advisory recommendations from scientists being cooked or spun to match the government's intentions".

It also says that scientists and MPs "rightly criticized" Sir David King "for seeming to go back on the Independent Scientific Group's advice, which the Government had itself sought". Nature says that King's later insistence that his conclusions are not very different from those reached by the ISG "ring hollow".

Nature concludes that the Government should base its TB policy on the "unfettered" advice of the ISG, not least because this would be "deeply appreciated" by "scientists in all spheres who choose to participate in painstaking advisory processes in the earnest belief that their advice will actually make a difference to government policy".

...the biggest obstacle to addressing it are the state vets whose obsession with a badger-killing dogma blinds them

Trevor Lawson - Badger Trust

The editorial in Nature, published yesterday (1 November), has been welcomed by the Badger Trust. Trevor Lawson, public affairs advisor to the Trust commented: "It is indicative of how low Ministers are prepared to stoop over the question of bovine TB, when it leads to the office of the chief scientific advisor being subject to very personal, damning criticism by one of the world's leading scientific journals.

"But at the root of this fiasco is the constant whispering in the ears of Ministers by cull-mad state vets. Unless Ministers can distinguish between the genuinely independent scientific advice of the ISG and their pseudo-scientific state vets, there is no hope of controlling bovine TB in cattle.

"This disease is costing tax payers millions every year. It is perverse that the biggest obstacle to addressing it are the state vets whose obsession with a badger-killing dogma blinds them - and therefore farmers - to the massive, largely hidden reservoir of TB in cattle.

"That can only be addressed by cattle-based measures, yet Sir David King has scored a spectacular own goal by encouraging everyone to look in the wrong direction."

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