Vets say their professional body was wrong to support Government badger cull

Veterinary Association accused of being too close to farmers in letter to The Independent

A A A

The professional body for vets has cast a “dark shadow” over the profession by supporting the Government’s badger cull, according to a group of veterinarians who claim its senior officials are too close to the farming industry.

Members of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have launched a fierce attack on their representative body for failing to consult its full membership before endorsing the cull.

The trial badger cull officially began in Somerset and Gloucestershire on Saturday, although the first animals are not expected to be killed for at least another week. The cull aims to reduce tuberculosis in cattle by killing infected badgers that help spread the disease. But in comments exposing a rift within the ranks of the BVA, a group of academics and practising vets accused the body of acting out of “expedience”.

In a letter published in today’s Independent, they claim the BVA has supported the cull “in spite of the overwhelming scientific opinion that culling badgers will not help reduce TB in cattle”. They also argue that the body should withhold its support at least until much more is known about the humaneness of the cull and how it will be measured.

“The public needs to understand that the BVA’s position is not necessarily representative of majority veterinary opinion and that many vets oppose or have serious reservations about the policy,” said the letter, which has 11 signatories, including Alasdair MacMillan, former chief scientific officer at the RSPCA. Four of the signatories are BVA members.

“It represents the position of an organisation that, in our view, has lost touch with its key purpose of providing leadership on animal welfare on this issue and whose judgement is being influenced by a close historic alignment with the farming industry.

“That some vets in positions of influence appear to have abandoned precaution for the sake of what appears to be political and perceived economic expedience casts a dark shadow over our profession,” says the letter, which is also signed by Caroline Allen, a practising vet and spokesperson for the Green Party and Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International, the animal protection group.

Responding, the BVA president Peter Jones said: “We know that culling badgers reduces the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. We want to see healthy cattle and healthy badgers and we have been insistent that measures to control bovine TB in wildlife must be humane.

“We do accept that not every member will agree or have an opinion on every BVA policy, but through our committee system and Council, which includes elected representatives from every region of the UK, we are able to give every member a voice. The majority of your correspondents are not BVA members and would therefore not have had the opportunity to take part in the policy-making process,” he added.

Some opponents of the badger cull argue that it is an ineffective way of reducing TB in cattle and could even exacerbate the problem because fleeing badgers could spread the disease more widely. They put the main reason for the spread of the disease down to the movement of infected cattle across the country.

The trial culls aim to kill about 5,000 badgers, or 70 per cent of the estimate population in the two culling zones. If these culls are deemed to be humane, efficient and safe, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson plans to extend them to a further 40 zones over the next four years.

The vets’ opposition to the cull comes as a new government select committee report today warns that vaccinations – seen by many opponents as a key alternative to culling – were “no magic bullet”.

“While progress to develop vaccines is clearly being made, debate on this subject has been characterised by lack of clarity leading to poor public understanding. The Government must share a great deal of blame for this,” said Anne McIntosh MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

“We should use every tool to combat this disease, but vaccination alone will not provide a complete solution. Vaccines have no impact on already infected animals, and will be expensive to deploy,” she added.

News
people
Sport
Yaya Sanogo celebrates scoring the opening goal with Arsenal's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
champions leagueLive: All the latest from the Emirates and Bulgaria, where Liverpool face Ludogorets
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire