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The Badger-TB Controversy: Expertise and Experience in Animal Disease Research

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This project will address ongoing controversy over the transmission risks of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) between UK wild badger populations and domestic cattle as a case study of public scientific controversy, and of scientific communication between multiple experts, stakeholders and publics. At present, most actors in the debate agree that badgers and cattle carry and infect one another with bTB, but the degree to which this transmission is important for the epidemiology of bTB is still highly uncertain, as is the related question of how to bring down the (rapidly rising) infection rate in domestic cattle herds. This has involved a wide range of scientists from many disciplines, including epidemiologists, population biologists, ecologists, economists and veterinary scientists. A range of non-academic stakeholders have also participated in this very public scientific debate - including:

  • Farmers
  • Veterinarians
  • NGO campaigners and industry representatives
  • Policymakers
  • Urban and rural members of the public

Using a range of methodologies, including examination of popular culture; quantitative and qualitative analysis of UK national press coverage; and qualitative interviewing with participants in the controversy, this research will provide a case study of a chronic, ongoing, and divisive public scientific controversy. It aims to:

  • understand the underlying roots of the conflict
  • investigate the interactions between cultural knowledge, social attitudes and the ecology/epidemiology of the badger/bTB problem in the UK
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Prevention and Control
Bacterial Pathogens