Scientists clash over badger cull trial to trace TB

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The Independent Online

Scientists fell out yesterday over the trials to see if tuberculosis in cattle can be controlled by killing badgers, suspected of carrying the disease.

The government trials, which have cost more than £25m over six years, involve culling badgers in different areasto see if differences in bovine TB infection rates show up. Farmers have supported the trials, whereas animal welfare activists have opposed them. But yesterday the review group set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs criticised the work of the scientists, partly because the trials cannot be carried out as planned. Under recent animal welfare regulations the badgers must be captured and humanely put down, meaning that at most 80 per cent are removed, undermining the scientific grounds of the trial.

The review group, led by Professor Charles Godfray, director of the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College, London, criticises the time taken to deliver the results, and the possibility that they will be inconclusive. The scientists running the trials, led by Professor John Bourne, former director of the Institute for Animal Health, said the criticisms were based on "fundamental misunderstandings".