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How the members of the Independent
Scientific Group on Cattle TB were appointed
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Filed 22 June 07
The final report of the Independent Scientific
Group on Cattle TB was published on 18th June 2007 (1).
After 10 years of deliberation, it recommended to the Secretary
of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that:
"while badgers are clearly a source of
cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others' data indicates
that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle
TB control in Britain"
This website commented on the report on 20th June
in highly critical terms (2), describing its publication
as a sad day for UK science and for UK animal health and welfare
that it was supposed to protect. One wondered why, in their 10 year
watch the ISG had allowed to escalate in such a disastrous manner
what had long been recognised to be a serious problem (3).
The question needed to be asked as to how this
particular advisory group was put together. I therefore emailed
the ISG Secretariat at DEFRA to enquire. The following is the reply:
APPOINTMENT OF THE ISG
Thank you for your e-mail, received yesterday,
to Mike Summerskill. He has asked me to reply to you.
The Krebs report in 1997 recommended (paragraph
5.6.14) that an "Expert Group", including statisticians
and mathematical epidemiologists, should be established to oversee
the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, that was completed last year.
(The Final Report on the Trial was published by this Expert Group,
the ISG, last Monday.)
As the Government of the day, in 1997-8, accepted
the recommendations of the report, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food (Defra's predecessor) officials considered of what composition
such a Group should consist, and what names of individuals should
be put before Ministers for their consideration.
The size of any such Groups is usually about
half a dozen (as the Krebs Committee was) and as it had been recommended
that some places should be filled by statisticians and mathematical
epidemiologists, it was decided that the other places should be
filled by individuals who had appropriate (cattle and wildlife)
veterinary and immunological experience and by a badger ecologist.
Ministers were consulted and, by Ministerial
appointment, the Chairman (Professor John Bourne) was appointed
in 1998, as were five Members (Dr Christl Donnelly, Sir David
Cox, Professor George Gettinby, Professor Ivan Morrison and Dr
A little time after these individuals first
met together, a combined decision was made that the Group additionally
needed the experience of an agricultural economist. A number
of leading academics was considered and Professor John McInerney
was considered the best choice. He was appointed by Ministers
a few months after the other Members.
I hope you find this explanation satisfactory
for your purposes.
If you need any more information, please contact
me by letter, telephone or e-mail.
A L PATEY
Defra, 1A Page Street, London, SW1P 4PQ
Tel: 020 7904 6057
So it transpires that it was Ministry Officials
who considered the size of the group and what names should be put
forward for the approval of Ministers. In the event all the members
of the ISG, including its Chairman, were appointed by Ministers.
The Secretariat was within a Ministerial Department, currently DEFRA.
It is therefore very difficult to regard the ISG
as being truly independent.
Moreover, the strong influence of Professor John
Krebs is apparent in shaping the ISG, and, it might be surmised,
its individual membership. The result included a mathematical epidemiologist
(epidemiological modeller) and a statistician, with an economist
added later for good measure. There are ingredients of this mix
that are all too reminiscent of the advisory group that was set
up - again allegedly very much under Krebs influence - to deal so
disastrously with FMD UK2001.
It may be that Ministers did not interfere with
the activities of the ISG once it had been set up, and that the
Secretariat operated totally without Ministerial bias. But the fact
that all the members of the ISG were directly appointed by Ministers
makes one wonder just how "independent" they were. Certainly,
the choosing of the individual members would appear to have been
far from independent.
The result - an appalling costly mess after 10
1. Bourne et al (2007). Bovine
TB: the scientific evidence. A science base for a sustainable policy
to control TB in cattle. An epidemiological investigation into bovine
tuberculosis. Final report of the independent scientific group on
Click Here to
View (large pdf file)
2. Irvine, James (2007). The "Independent
Scientific Group" advises against badger cull as part of plan
to control TB in cattle. A sad day for science, and for animal health
and welfare that it is supposed to protect.
See TB Homepage, filed 20 Jun 07, www.land-care.org.uk
Here to View
3. Zuckerman, S (1980). Badgers,
cattle and tuberculosis. Report to the Right Honourable Peter Walker,
Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Her Majesty's Stationery Office