Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Culling in England: A Utilitarian Analysis of Policy Options

Steven McCulloch, Michael J. Reiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is an important animal health policy issue in Britain, which impacts farmers, the public, domestic farmed cattle and the wild badger population. The Westminster government's badger culling policy in England, which began in 2013, has caused considerable controversy. This is in part because the Independent Scientific Group advised against culling, based on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Those opposed to badger culling support more stringent cattle-based measures and the vaccination of badgers. This paper argues for ethical analysis of public policy options which impact sentient species. It provides a summary Animal Welfare Impact Assessment of (1) a do-nothing approach, (2) badger culling, and (3) badger vaccination. A utilitarian analysis is then applied to these policy options considering human wellbeing and animal welfare. The analysis compares a badger culling policy that achieves a 19% reduction in bovine TB incidence, a badger vaccination model achieving a 12.5% reduction, and a do-nothing approach. Policy options are assessed over 9Â years and a longer timeframe, and uncertainty is considered. The analysis finds that non-culling approaches, particularly badger vaccination, result in greater total utility, compared to badger culling. Badger culling causes 30% reduction in the badger population in England as well as substantial harms due to the culling process. Culling is opposed by public opinion and is associated with considerable risks and uncertainty. In contrast, non-culling approaches, such as cattle-based measures and badger vaccination, are supported by public opinion and are not associated with such risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-533
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Volume30
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2017

Keywords

  • Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA)
  • Badger culling
  • Badger vaccination
  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • Government policy
  • Utilitarianism

Cite this

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title = "Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Culling in England: A Utilitarian Analysis of Policy Options",
abstract = "Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is an important animal health policy issue in Britain, which impacts farmers, the public, domestic farmed cattle and the wild badger population. The Westminster government's badger culling policy in England, which began in 2013, has caused considerable controversy. This is in part because the Independent Scientific Group advised against culling, based on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Those opposed to badger culling support more stringent cattle-based measures and the vaccination of badgers. This paper argues for ethical analysis of public policy options which impact sentient species. It provides a summary Animal Welfare Impact Assessment of (1) a do-nothing approach, (2) badger culling, and (3) badger vaccination. A utilitarian analysis is then applied to these policy options considering human wellbeing and animal welfare. The analysis compares a badger culling policy that achieves a 19{\%} reduction in bovine TB incidence, a badger vaccination model achieving a 12.5{\%} reduction, and a do-nothing approach. Policy options are assessed over 9{\^A} years and a longer timeframe, and uncertainty is considered. The analysis finds that non-culling approaches, particularly badger vaccination, result in greater total utility, compared to badger culling. Badger culling causes 30{\%} reduction in the badger population in England as well as substantial harms due to the culling process. Culling is opposed by public opinion and is associated with considerable risks and uncertainty. In contrast, non-culling approaches, such as cattle-based measures and badger vaccination, are supported by public opinion and are not associated with such risks.",
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Bovine Tuberculosis and Badger Culling in England: A Utilitarian Analysis of Policy Options. / McCulloch, Steven; Reiss, Michael J.

Vol. 30, No. 4, 18.08.2017, p. 511-533.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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