Angela Cassidy (LEEP, UoE), 1 Feb. 2017:

Contesting British badgers and bovine TB since c. 1965: implications for research and policy

Bovine TB (bTB) is a chronic infectious disease affecting cattle and other mammals including humans.  While the Zoonotic risks of bTB have been well controlled in the UK since the late 1960's, the disease was not successfully eradicated in cattle, and has recent years once more become a serious agricultural and political problem. Since the early 1970's, when connections were made between infections in wild badgers and bTB in cattle, a chronic policy and public controversy has developed over wildlife culling policies, involving a repeating cycle of policymaking; research, contested knowledge; public protest; expert reviews, and since the late 1990's, escalating disease rates.

In this paper I will discuss my research mapping the contemporary history of these debates.  I argue that underlying problems of human/animal conflict preceded and are by now deeply intertwined in the controversy.  It has also been exacerbated by a series of factors building upon each other over time.  These have included: repeatedly raised and broken expectations (of scientists, policy makers, publics and organisms); legitimacy struggles between veterinarians and scientists; the breakdown of mechanisms for direct engagement between key actors; and more recently, wider processes of political polarisation.

To close, I will explore the implications of my research for developing new approaches to policy and research on bTB itself, as well as for thinking more broadly about the social aspects of infectious disease; science and policy; agri/environmental conflicts; and working across disciplines.