The question of whether British farmers should be allowed to cull badgers, on the basis that the animals may help spread tuberculosis (TB) among cattle, is perhaps not the most momentous matter on which a government has sought scientific advice. But the mishandling of the issue by David King, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, is an example to governments of how not deal with such advice, once it has been solicited and received.
Mishandling? That 'government' had had its sticky paws in this most unholy of messes from day one of the
"We repeatedly say "culling, as conducted in the trial." It is important [that] we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians."
"At the end of the day I think you have to accept that it is the price society puts on a badger. [ ] In this country there is a price on a badger and on badger welfare".
"Whatever has driven that I do not know but the fact is that a price has been put on the badger in this country which related to the way we were able to carry out our scientific work. That is exactly what we report".
That the man even mentioned the word 'science' in the same sentence as the political steer to this 'trial', is breathtakingly arrogant. That Nature have not picked up on his assertions, is worse.
We re-run a comment from CLA representative Mr. Rooney, himself a scientist, who expressed his displeasure at Bourne's discription of 'political science' most forcefully:
Perhaps I might preface my remarks by saying that I was brought up as a scientist; it was not in this discipline, but scientific principles hold, whatever the discipline. One of the things that I was taught was that, in designing an experiment to try to address an issue or a problem, you may not like the results, but you accept them. I find it deeply shocking that responsible scientists should have been prepared to undertake a research study having been told at the outset that there is a conclusion that they are not allowed to reach. I find that utterly disgraceful".
It is noteworthy that Sir David King vehemently denied any such political skew, when he appeared before the EFRAcom last week. Speaking before his appearance, Professor Bourne claimed Sir David’s report was politically motivated.
Sir David refuted the claim. “I would never give advice based on pressure from politicians,” he said.
Which is more than can be said for the author of the ISG's final report, and its chairman.