Founded in 1951, The Bow Group is the oldest conservative think tank in the United Kingdom run by a group of volunteers. It holds no corporate view, and is thus open to all strands of conservative thought. Although often associated with the Conservative Party, the group is an independent organisation funded largely by members' subscriptions. The Bow Group exists to publish and promote the research and policy proposals of its members, through policy papers, policy briefs and larger collaborative projects. Its members are predominantly people in their 20s and 30s, and also include leading Conservative politicians. A major influence on Conservative party policy for many years, the group is again attracting notice as a source of fresh ideas on public services, welfare, the condition of inner cities and crime policy.

The Bow Group has published two reports concerning the Badger Cull and bTB. You can read the Executive summaries for both on this page; each full report is available for download at the end of the summaries.

On Target -

Common Sense and Bovine TB

Why the Government should abandon badger culling trials
in favour of vaccination.

A report from The Bow Group published on 25 March 2012.

Executive Summary
  • The Government is choosing the wrong method for tackling bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in England. Recent, large badger culling trials (11,000 badgers) have demonstrated projected efficiency in reducing bTB in cattle of just 12-16% (depending on the model) over 9 years.

  • Badger culling has been demonstrated to lead to perturbation - a social fracturing that actually helps to spread bTB outside the affected area.

  • In contrast, trials of vaccinating a proportion of the wild badger population with BadgerBCG has shown to reduce the incidence of positive serological TB test results by almost 74%.

  • Just 15% of badgers carry bTB and poor biosecurity likely plays a much bigger role in the spread of bTB. Serious lapses, whereby landowners have been re-tagging and transporting infected cattle, are of deep concern.

  • Compensation payouts for bTB should be linked to fulfilment of biosecurity best practice.

  • Simple, cost effective measures are available to physically separate badgers from cattle and can reduce the incidence of infection.

  • The population of foxes is likely to increase in areas where badgers are culled, leading to additional problems for farmers. Foxes also impact adversely on a number of species, including hares, a UK BAP species in decline.

  • Badger culling is likely to be more expensive than the Government would hope, when additional policing, the resulting spread of bTB and the delay to research of other, more effective methods of reducing the disease are taken into account.

  • Badger culling is deeply unpopular, with The Bow Groupʼs own, independent market research confirming that 81% of people are opposed to the Governmentʼs plans.

  • The architect of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), Lord Krebs, is also opposed to further culls, as are many leading scientists, conservationists, wildlife experts, the media and celebrities.

  • The Government should establish a working group on vaccination and invest in this method of reducing infection in the wild badger population.

    The report is a 6.5MB download so, for convenience, it is zipped. It is quicker to download this way; then you will have the option to open or save the pdf file to your PC (recommended).
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    What Next for Bovine TB?

    A report from The Bow Group published on 28 February 2014.



  • With a cost of £4,121 per badger, the likely conclusion by the forthcoming report by the Independent Panel of Experts on the recent pilot of badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire that more badger culling will be of no benefit is particularly damning.

  • Added to this, we now have evidence that incidents of bovine TB is in fact decreasing without culling. The incidence rate for January-November 2013 down 4.5% and the number of cattle slaughtered down 9.5%is proof that cattle controls are working. Given that the badger cull trials were restricted to Somerset and Gloucestershire and only carried out in late 2013, it is inconceivable that these were a contributory factor.

  • In addition to our previous calls for vaccination of badgers and the rolling out of a cattle vaccine, we also believe the time is right for the establishing of an Independent panel for bovine TB policy making. This would both nullify the pressure lobby groups such as the NFU are able to exert on politicians as well as going some way to bringing the standoff between the two sides of the bTB debate to a conclusion.

  • The Paperís Author, G Godwin-Pearson says, "Unfortunately, the pilot badger culls in the rural Westcountry last year were a fiasco for the Party and for DEFRA, sparking national furore and condemnation from scientists, vets, charities, TV presenters, a certain rock star and the public at large.

  • "There are thousands of volunteers prepared to don wellies and help a national effort to vaccinate our most iconic wild animal against this horrible disease. The cost, which has always been a concern, will be far less than the £4,121 per badger that culling has amounted to and it will appeal to the country-folk and urbanites who took the time to sign petitions, write to their MP or even march against the culls. Itís also a good example of the Big Society in action, by a nation of animal lovers, for the benefit of wildlife.

  • "The big question for the Cabinet is how to duck out of the commitment to culling it made to the NFU; the answer is simple - create and Independent Panel for bTB, with scientists, vets, wildlife experts, charities and landowners, selected for their knowledge of the subject, who can become the voice of unbiased reason for ministers."

The Bow Group's report opposing the culling of badgers makes the following recommendations:-

  1. Work with conservation charities to rollout a national injectable BCG badger vaccination programme, as per the recommendation of the EFRA Select Committee.

  2. Implement compulsory pre-movement testing between farms within the same holding and prior to agricultural shows and common land grazing.

  3. Compel farms that have TB to declare their status to neighbouring holdings.

  4. Enforce isolation regulations and slaughter any new-born calves of reactors.

  5. Increase the use of the g-IFN test, alongside the SICCT test.

  6. Take the lead, alongside a major commercial herd, in field trials of a cattle vaccine, in order to aid the progression of legislation to permit the license of cattle BCG in Europe and trading of vaccinated cattle.

  7. Appoint an Independent Panel on bTB to advise the Government on bTB policy direction now and in the future.

  8. Push for more intuitive agricultural subsidies from the EU which incentivises good management rather than simply encouraging high yields.

  9. If you would like to share the above summary on social media etc., then please click here to download the two-page document (pdf format).

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