Here’s a snapshot of an excel graph that I produced to show the reality of the badger cull. The source is a UK government document produced by Oliver Hawkins for the Social and General Statistics section of the UK government. They can hardly say that I’m making up figures, can they? His basis was DEFRA’s own figures.
It puts the whole thing into perspective. The line is a line of ‘best’ fit, though as an engineer, I feel guilty about adding a line to represent such higgledy piggledy figures. That line shows an increase of 2,000 cattle slaughtered per year: like I said, I don’t think it’s fair to add the line in the first place: if the 2002 rise is neglected and a line is put through the other figures, the rate of rise is…843/year. If it’s put through the period 2008 to 2012 its a drop of 3874 per year. Which is right? probably none of them.
Remember that the government seeks to reduce the rate of rise in cattle TB by 16%. I don’t know what figure they are using for the rate of rise, but it’s no more likely to be accurate than my guess of 2,000. That means that they are hoping to prove that cattle death due to TB will only go up by about 1,700 per year from now on. This, they will undoubtedly hail as a success. Given that the average swing in slaughter rates from one year to the next is 5,500 cattle and the largest variation is 17,800 in one year, just how the hell do they think they can attribute a downturn of 300 to badger culling?
This is what I meant in my earlier posts, when I said that mathematically, the government’s claims are absurd.
There are a couple of other things that this graph shows quite clearly:
Number 1. Bovine TB rates were pottering along at around 5,000 per year until a five fold leap in 2001-2002. Why is this? I strongly suspect that it is due to re-stocking UK herds from abroad, following the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, which eradicated a huge proportion of UK herds. It is very possible that farmers unwittingly introduced high levels of TB into the UK herds, when they did this. This surge can be nothing to do with badgers, yet they are being blamed for it.
It follows that badgers can only be contributing to the 5,000 or so deaths, which represent 0.05% of UK cattle population, or 5 in every ten thousand cattle…that’s not a lot.
Number 2. Whilst the rate of infection climbed from 2001 until 2008, it appears to be subsiding again, presumably as the control of cattle movements and TB checking strategies begin to take effect. Last year had the lowest incidence of bovine TB since the 2002 jump. Badgers were not being culled in this period, yet infection rates are falling rapidly. Be very wary of any politician claiming that a reduction next year has anything to do with the culling!
Number 3. You would think from what the politicians are saying that bovine TB is at epidemic scale and that this is why the badgers have to be slaughtered. This is simply not the case. At its peak in 2008, total losses, which includes animals which are TB-free being slaughtered because of direct contact with infected beasts, the death rate was less than 0.4%…hardly the end of the world.
The relative cost of TB.
Government estimates that £50 million pounds per year is spent on TB in this country. Bear in mind that with or without badgers, some of this money still has to be spent. I’m not sure of the split, because to buy a new calf costs between £1,400 and £1,600, making the cost of 5,000 deaths in livestock alone £7 million to £8 million. there will be more cost to add to that because a dairy farmer can’t milk a calf! Nor can a beef farmer sell the calf until it is fully grown, unless it is sold for veal.
The cost of each badger death has been touted variously at around £2,000 per head. I would expect this figure to rise as the cull is extended in Somerset and Gloucestershire. There is no reliable data on badger population in the UK, but I have seen estimates varying between 288,000 and 300,000. On this basis, to cull 70% would cost around £588 million. The culling could not stop there either, but would have to continue to control the population.
So, the financial argument is £50 million a year to keep going as we are without culling, or a proportion of that cost to maintain TB checks with an additional yearly cost to cull and a whopping great £0.5 billion pounds for the first big cull.
Financially, the cull makes no more sense than the science and maths that are allegedly behind its inception.