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A Devon badger in the wild. Photo: Jon Bowen via Flickr.com.
A Devon badger in the wild. Photo: Jon Bowen via Flickr.com.
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BBC says sorry - we got it wrong on Irish badgers

The Ecologist

23rd March 2014

In a ground-breaking decision the BBC has admitted: it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle. Will the decision stop the Government from making the same mistake?

The article had suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.

The BBC's statement in which it admitted it was at fault followed a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 'How did the Irish badger cull play out?'

The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.

Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease.

Huge implications

This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent "success" of killing badgers in Ireland.

In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:

"Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they've gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast."

Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media.

We must fight these deceptions

Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

"This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.

"Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence.

"The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?"

Government must use science not conjecture

He added that the Government was abusing its dominant position with the media to win people over to its point of view - based on nothing but its own conjecture.

"The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they've been allowed to get away with it.  

The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it's very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda."

 

 

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