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How politics trumped science when designing the RBCT badger culling trial

Professor Bourne ... Let me take you back to 1999 when we started this work. It was made very clear to us by ministers of the day-and they have not refuted it since-that elimination of badgers over large tracts of the countryside was not an option for future policy.
Q78 Mr Cox: Is it not the function of science-?
Professor Bourne: It was on that basis that we designed the trial. We also had to take into account welfare considerations with respect to method of culling used and limitations on culling with respect to ensuring that cubs were not killed or died underground.
Q79 Mr Cox: You had a closed season.
Professor Bourne: Yes. Those were the clear, political limitations that we operated under. I have no reason to believe that those political limitations have been changed.
Q80 Mr Cox: You make an extremely fair point. That of course does not always come out in the publication of your results. Is it not the function of science to present a list of options to the Government and allow the politicians to decide what is politically unacceptable? The danger about the interpretation of your report from those who are listening to this and reading it is that you have concluded, as a matter of science, that it can be of no effect. In fact, your conclusions are substantially affected by political and social limitations imposed on them.
Professor Bourne: We repeatedly say "culling as conducted in the trial." It is important we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians.


  1. Badgers and cattle TB: the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Fourth Report of Session 2007-08. House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Volume II. Oral and written evidence. Published on 27 February 2008.
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