Animal Ethics and the Culling of Badgers: A Reply to McCulloch and Reiss
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Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is an important animal health policy issue in England, which impacts farmers, the public, cattle and badgers. The government has licensed farmers to cull badgers, which are a wildlife reservoir for bovine TB. The policy is controversial, particularly because the Independent Scientific Group recommended against culling based on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. This paper assesses impacts of bovine TB policy options on cattle and badgers. Policy options assessed are: (1) do nothing, (2) badger culling, and (3) badger vaccination. Impacts are illustrated by Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA), which includes (1) species description, and (2) AWIA analysis stages. Over 4 years, 85,000 badgers will be culled to prevent the slaughter of ~17,750 cattle over 9 years. Hence, about five badgers are culled for every cow which avoids slaughter. The AWIA analyses the impact of badger vaccination on cows and badgers based on a set of stated assumptions. The AWIA estimates badger vaccination to reduce the number of cows slaughtered by 11,600, i.e. a 12.5% reduction. Additional to the harm of killing, culling has greater welfare impacts on badgers compared to non-culling options. Actors in animal health and welfare policy were asked in interviews about the concept of AWIA. Policy actors supported the idea of AWIA to provide objective data to feed into policy making. The paper concludes with the proposal that AWIA is a necessary stage of just policy making where sentient animals are impacted by government policy.