Poll shows divided public opinion on badger culling

PUBLIC opinion over the merits of badger culling to control bovine TB appears to be fairy evenly split, according to a poll commissioned by an organisation campaigning against the policy.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Humane Society International UK showed well under half of respondents actively opposed the policy.

Asked whether they ‘support or oppose the cull of badgers to try and reduce TB in cattle’, 31 per cent of respondents said they were in favour, while 40 per cent were against. The remaining 29 per cent had no view either way. 

In terms of individual categories, support for the policy was greatest among Conservative voters (43 per cent), males (39 per cent), people over 60 (34 per cent) and, perhaps surprisingly, Londoners (37 per cent) out of five regions surveyed.

The poll of more 1,500 people also showed the public was overwhelmingly in favour of developing badger and cattle vaccines (60 per cent) as ‘government’s main focus to reduce the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle’.

Twelve per cent selected a ‘controlled cull’, while the same proportion chose ‘limiting the movement of cattle herds and reforming cattle farming’.

The poll was published to coincide with a Westminster demonstration to highlight HSI UK’s complaint that the proposed English badger cull would breach the Bern Convention on wildlife conservation.

The animal protection charity is basing its claim on three main grounds, including that it poses a ‘significant threat’ to local badger populations and that ‘alternative strategies for controlling TB in cattle and badgers have not been sufficiently explored’.  

Conservationist Bill Oddie, who joined the protest, alongside MPs including Shadow Defra Secretary Mary Creagh and groups like the Badger Trust and League Against Cruel Sports, said: “There is an appalling bloody-minded arrogance about the government’s decision. Opposition to the cull is not based on sentimentality, but on the fact that a great deal of thorough research suggests that it won’t work.”

But NFU chief farm policy adviser John Royle said the policy has been specifically designed to comply with the Bern convention, regarding the impact on local badger populations.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Opposition to the concept of culling is largely based on ignorance.

    Most people are unaware of

    (a) the rate at which the prevelance of the disease is increasing (DEFRA are not making this clear and have concealed the impact of the less potent Lelystad tuberculin which has been phased in since 2005),

    (b) the risk that further research will not lead to an effective replacement for the failing BCG vaccine,

    (c) the prevelance of the disease in badgers surrounding infected farms (Krebs 1997 reported this to about 35% in trials carried out between 1994 and 1996), and

    (d) the potential consequences of what will happen over the next 10 years if reliance is placed on vaccination to control the wildlife vector without culling in view of the practical problems associated with deploying the oral vaccine and the poor prospects and potential detrimental impact associated with administering the oral vaccine in areas where a large proportion of badgers are already infected.

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  • The Peasant
    Why should animal health issues be settled by popularity poll? Do the people questioned think that no one has searched for a better vaccine than the BCG vaccine in the 90 years since it was introduced, or understand why it has not been found?
    The "appalling bloody-minded arrogance"
    is to be found in the minds of those who oppose a cull without any understanding of the true nature of the disease or the havoc it is causing.

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  • Pretty pleasing poll to be fair. Yes against came out on top but, it's not exactly staggering differences we're looking at here which to me feels like the reasons for a cull is being heard and getting across to more people. Keep up the good work guys, getting the facts into people's skulls is certainly going to help. Whilst popularity wont change the science it can have some bad consequences in terms of applying it. An informed individual is smart whereas an ill-informed mob can not only be very stupid but, enable the very dangerous.

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  • TWO polls in the Telegraph were over 60% for the cull - haven't seen that advertised anywhere and the T poll was open for weeks too - must have been hoping for a 'correct' answer!!!!

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