BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle

In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.

The statement was following 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.

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. 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?

“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.”

The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.


Notes to Editors:

1) BBC Article referred to can be found at

2) Full BBC ruling attached or available separately on request – file name ‘BBC Response to Complaint Feb 2013 TB’

3) Independent on Sunday Article referenced was published on 13th October 2013

4) Care for the Wild International is a charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of wildlife around the world. Our mission is to rescue, protect and defend wildlife around the world by committing our resources to deliver the greatest good. You can find out more about the charity by visiting Registered Charity No. 288802.

5) Badger Trust promotes the conservation and welfare of badgers and the protection of their setts and habitats for the public benefit. Registered charity No.1111440

6) For further information or for comment/interview, please contact Philip Mansbridge, CEO on 07791 896 732 or Dominic Dyer on 07876 596 233.