.....and the critics are wrong. In this weeks’ farming press, John Bourne hits back at his critics - or if you prefer, throws his teddies out of the ISG pram. In an interview with Alistair Driver, for Farmers Guardian, he blamed pressure from politicians in general and the Minister in particular, for causing ‘confusion’ over his trial - or to be more precise, his first and only years’ results published so far.
Calling the Minister’s "Consultation on Badger Culling", a complete waste of time, Professor Bourne said that things had been "rushed through to meet a timetable but we couldn’t do it in the timescale we were working to". As a result, the document made "many inaccurate statements. For example two of the proposals for taking badgers out were shown in our trials to make the situation worse".
Professor Bourne said that the 20 – 60% culling efficiency figure presented in the Defra consultation document was "wrong, absolutely and categorically wrong". (What was it then, less than 20%? Sheeesh) He continued, having hurled a few more toys, " It was only based on an assessment after the first cull, but that was never made clear".
Errr. Yes. But having heard all the world and his dog speak on this subject, did we really miss the strident voice of the diminutive John Bourne announcing that this set of tortured data, presented in autumn 2005 - SEVEN years after the trial started - only made up his first year’s results, should not be relied upon, and was inaccurate in its conclusions anyway? No. I thought not. Neither did he stamp his foot at those politicians / un-civil servants allegedly pressurising him, as he has done so many times in the past with us lesser mortals. ‘Sound science’ can not be subject to the sort of meddling – unless of course its result is an excuse for more prevarication by its paymaster. That Bourne is a paper shield for Defra’s continuing intransigence is unequivocal. That the good Professor has yet to realise this, is more worrying.
Professor Bourne categorically denied that he was against badger culling saying: " What I am against is culling that is not effective, and makes the situation worse". Aren't we all.
Full report: http://www.farmersguardian.com/story.asp?sectioncode=24&storycode=4292
Alongside Professor Bourne’s spirited defence of his trial, is the sorry tale of one farmer, unfortunate enough to be in the middle of it. Describing how, after a ‘hit and run’ visit by the Krebs team in June 2000, this North Cornish dairy farm, housing a closed herd of pedigree cattle became a mecca for badgers and endured a Tb breakdown lasting almost 5 years, farmer Pat Bird is less than sympathetic to Professor Bourne’s indignation.
As the tests on this farm, and its neighbours, continued with 60 day depressing regularity and the mound of dead cattle grew, Bourne’s ‘Reactive’ culling team, charged with clearing out badgers in response to a breakdown, failed to turn up at all. No wonder the Reactive figures were shown to ‘increase tb’. Well they would, wouldn’t they if the Krebs lot didn't come? As her farm became laced with badger trials, Mrs. Bird describes Bourne’s trial as a ‘death sentence’ for her cattle, and suggests it could be renamed ‘Badger Dispersal Trial’.
Full article: http://www.farmersguardian.com/story.asp?storycode=4294
And farmers are not the only people with first hand knowledge of the ‘rigorous and robust’ work, done by the Krebs team, now so vigourously and indignantly defended by Professor Bourne. We covered in the post http://bovinetb.blogspot.com/2006/03/robust-basis-of-krebs.html comments from Paul Caruana, a Senior Manager of the trial's Wildlife teams who said " The whole basis of Krebs was to remove badgers off the ground. For the first four years, that effort was farcical, due to restrictions placed upon us. The trial had too many flaws in it to be trusted to produce meaningful evidence. How much weight do we give the latest ISG report, detailing their ‘robust’ findings to the minister? If it were down to me and my staff, very little".
With vets, his Wildlife teams and now participating farmers saying how weak this ‘trial' was, Professor Bourne must be feeling a tad lonely out there.