A group of vets has accused government ministers of misleading the public about how well badger culls are working, claiming they have issued “barefaced lies” on the matter.
Dr Iain McGill, a veterinary surgeon and director of Prion Interest Group, disputes the claim by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that the Somerset and Gloucestershire culls have been effective in reducing instances of TB in cattle.
He told the BBC: “According to Defra’s figures, they claim that they calculated that the incidence [of TB] has reduced. But their calculations are unclear and deliberately opaque. And, indeed, the current situation in the cull zone says there is an increased prevalence.
’So, either their figures were calculated on an extremely inaccurate basis and they’ve got it very badly wrong, or they have actually gerrymandered those figures to make it look as if the incidence is falling when the evidence clearly shows that the prevalence has gone up.”
He added: “Badger culling has not worked.”
In response, a Defra spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “The latest statistics showed reductions in new outbreaks of bovine TB in the initial cull areas, an encouraging sign that the steps we have taken have had a positive impact.
“Based on this scientific data, Minister Eustice was absolutely correct to describe this progress as encouraging.
“Measuring new outbreaks is the primary way we analyse the effect of our interventions in these areas. It is also the method used for reporting TB incidence in National Statistics.”
The group’s open letter also singles out comments farming minister George Eustice made in September for scrutiny, criticising him for stating: “Today’s figures showing reductions in TB cases in Somerset and Gloucestershire are evidence that our strategy for dealing with this slow-moving, insidious disease is delivering results.”
But as the group of vets point out, the report Eustice was drawing on also states: “This data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle.”
HuffPost UK has contacted Defra for comment.