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"Corrupt Science": BBC upholds complaint against Irish badger snaring article
12 March 2014

The BBC has upheld a complaint about an article on the BBC News website which suggested that the Irish badger cull was responsible for helping to control TB in cattle.

The article "How did the Irish badger cull play out?" was published on the BBC News website on 31 May 2013 and sought to analyse the success or not of badger culling in the Republic of Ireland.

An initial complaint that the "BBC was inaccurate and misleading in saying that data seemed to back up the claim that culling badgers in the Republic of Ireland had led to a reduction in TB in cattle" was rejected. However, on appeal, the corporation acknowledged that the claimed links between killing Irish badgers and a reduction in bovine TB is "scientifically unproven".

In the appeal, the complainant said that he believed that the BBC article had been wrong to say that data "seemed to back up" the claim that culling badgers in the Republic of Ireland had led to a reduction in bovine TB and that the piece should have exposed the lack of a relationship between badger culling and bovine TB levels. He also said that the article had been misleading by failing to point out that the Irish Government used cull data from 2000 rather than 1984 when the cull started. He said that there was no significant trend between badgers killed and bovine TB levels between 1984 and the present while there was a spike in TB numbers from 1999. He said that to start from the 1999 figure was "corrupt science" and that the BBC should have spotted this.

The BBC committee which considered the appeal said it "took full account of all the available evidence" in reaching its decision.

It stated: "The committee began by looking at what data there was to support the belief that a badger cull had led to a reduction in TB in cattle. It noted that the Irish Government’s statistics on the number of cattle in the Republic of Ireland diagnosed with TB showed 30,188 infected in 1984, when the cull started, 39,847 in 2000 and 18,476 in 2012. While noting this drop in infected cattle since 2000, the Committee considered that it was unclear what could be attributed to the culling of badgers as it noted that the current programme to curb bovine TB in Ireland contained a wide range of measures, such as a mandatory registration system for herds, a comprehensive programme of disease surveillance as well as disease and hygiene controls."

It went on to concede that "the statistics and scientific studies about the link between badger culling and bovine TB levels were inconclusive" and that therefore "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."

"While the data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, 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," the Committee's response outlined, adding "the Committee also noted that the statistics showed that levels of bovine TB in Ireland were at historically low levels, although it again observed that a wide range of factors could have influenced this data apart from the badger cull."

The Irish Department of Agriculture's cruel badger culling (previously condemned as "slaughter masquerading as science") has left an estimated 100,000 badgers dead so far. The animals are caught in snares and later shot in the head.

Read the full text of the BBC response below and please respond to our action alerts.


Demand an end to the cruel snaring and killing of badgers.
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Ireland: Stop badger snaring cruelty NOW

Please appeal to Agriculture Minister to show compassion and suspend the cruel badger snaring operation. Remind the Minister that the badger is a protected species in Ireland and that the Animal Health and Welfare Act, for which he is responsible, clearly states: "A person shall not do, or fail to do, anything or cause or permit anything to be done to an animal that causes unnecessary suffering to, or endanger the health or welfare of, an animal". Tell him that research has shown that "badger culling apparently has the capacity to increase badger-to-badger transmission of infection, potentially undermining anticipated reductions in badger-to-cattle transmission."

Minister Simon Coveney
Minister for Agriculture
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2000 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

Please write to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Remind them that the Wildlife Act, for which they are responsible, lists the badger as a protected species. Demand that they stop licensing the snaring and killing of thousands of badgers as part of a cruel and discredited TB eradication scheme.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs
23 Kildare Street
Dublin 2

Tel: (01) 631 3804
Fax: (01) 661 1201

Constituency Details
18A The Square, Listowel, Co Kerry
Telephone: 068-57446
Fax: 068-57805

Director, Licensing Unit
National Parks and Wildlife Service
7 Ely Place, Dublin 2
Tel: 01-888 3214

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