URGENT INVITE "Doing TB differently: Generating a workable TB policy during an acute episode within a chronic countryside conflict"

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics


This project aims to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the role that deliberative forums can play in solving intractable environmental policy problems, when informed by an understanding of how passionate interests are articulated and practiced. In particular, it explores and begins to work towards the remediation of the socio- political conflicts emerging around the issue of badger culling policy designed to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle. The government in England has already issued licenses for a pilot culling of badgers in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset, beginning imminently - in the late summer or early autumn of 2013. The licenses permit for up to 70% of the badger population in those regions to be culled in annual six-week periods in each location for a period of four years. Whilst this pilot scheme will be officially assessed only in terms of safety, humaneness and effectiveness of controlled shooting as a culling method, the feasibility of the broader roll out of culling policy clearly hinges upon the nature of social and political conflicts and whether they can be remediated. Even though the culls have yet to commence, public discourse is already highly divisive, with the debate being framed largely as a choice between badgers or farmers. Given that nearly 261,000 members of the public have signed the largest ever direct.gov e-petition against badger culling, it is anticipated that conflict between protesters, culling contractors, farmers and police will become acute.

Our research plans to explore the nature of the conflict among a range of actors with an interest in the culling policy. We also seek to evaluate the potential for consensus among these actors, or, at the very least, to help find a workable compromise to help inform future policy on the management of bTB in cattle. The lessons learned from this case study will inform future environmental policy-making on countryside issues and beyond.

Our research will be guided by three research questions:
1) How does the character of the acute conflict (characterised, in this case, by controversial field culls combined with the deliberately narrow remit of an Independent Expert Panel) reveal key fracture points in the debate?
2) What is the scope for reducing conflicts and overcoming fracture points through social science led forms of intervention?
3) Can a social science-led intervention translate into broader policy change?

These questions will be addressed from several angles. We will collect field observations and develop and analyse an archive of film evidence recording interactions between and among pro-and anti- culling groups, cull contractors, companies, farmers and police officers as culling is being undertaken. A sample of people from each of these groups will be approached for in-depth interviews. Data will also be generated from social- and mass-media. An online deliberative forum will be used to understand the types of argumentation deployed on all sides of the debate. This will inform a Q-set (a set of key arguments used in the debate) that will be used to test the views of participants in deliberative forums before and after they participate in two deliberative events. These professionally facilitated deliberative forums will seek to negotiate a workable compromise for future TB policy. Q-methodology will allow us to assess the extent to which social science-led deliberative forums have been able to reduce key fracture points in the conflict. Finally, we will run focus groups with key policy makers assessing the utility of our approach for informing policy and the possibility of our findings shaping TB policy.

Planned Impact

A broad range of parties will benefit from greater understanding of knowledge in conflict around bovine tuberculosis (bTB) control. Many of these are also actors in the conflict. Hence impact will arise as a result of the research both during and after the project. The impacts identified here primarily arise as a result of the eventual effective control of bTB, but proximally we also hope to provide a foundation for conflict resolution in this area.

Who will benefit?
- In the commercial sector, it is primarily the business of farmers that is affected. However, livestock auctioneers, veterinary practices, abattoirs are also adversely affected.
- In Government, animal health policy is a devolved matter and so DEFRA, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland have statutory responsibility for bTB control. Their Agencies (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and its National Wildlife Management Centre) and regulators (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NI Environment Agency) provide operational and advisory support.
- In the Third Sector, there is range of stakeholder groups. In relation to cattle, the British Veterinary Association, National Farmers Union, NFU Wales and Farmers Union of Wales are key parties, while in wildlife, a coalition of NGOs and action groups, collectively known as Team Badger are highly active.
All sectors are engaged in the conflict around bTB control and specifically, the culling pilots. All will be direct subjects of the project, as well as ideally benefiting from reflection within the project, and from the project final outputs.

How will they benefit?
- Health: The control of bovine TB is fundamentally driven by its historical significance as a major public health issue. In the UK it is presently a rare infection of humans, because of pasteurization and vaccination of people. Nonetheless, as the infection increases in incidence, and vaccination is no longer routine, it is likely to present an increasing occupational health hazard. Thus, effective control of TB is a long-term imperative for national health. Over and above the public health impact, bTB has grave consequences for farmers' well-being, mental and emotional health.
- Wealth: bTB imposes a major financial burden on the public and commercial sectors. It costs taxpayers £91M per annum primarily on compensation and testing, while it imposes trade restrictions, book valuations for compensation and other consequential losses on farmers. It reduces international and domestic trade and reduces long term investment in farming. As the epidemic grows, impact on farm economy and food security will increase. Because control is surrounded by conflict around badgers, the burden will increase. Better handling of conflict could enable economically effective control measures.
- Culture: The control of bTB is emerging as a point of conflict between the U.K.'s urban and rural cultures and as culling commences, is likely to augment distance between publics and their senses of ownership of wildlife and national countryside heritage. Recognising areas of common ground and the potential for resolution may mitigate some of this distancing.

There are proximal and more strategic impacts for this work.
Proximally, one might hope to:
- Provide better understanding of how to handle evidence and knowledge during an acute conflict.
- Enable actors to recognize the legitimacy of debate around the evidence derived from pilot culls.
- Enable reflection and discussion among key stakeholders at a critical stage in a chronic dispute.

Strategically, one might hope to:
- Pilot deliberative processes among stakeholders in the bTB control debate, and the wider area of animal health management.
- Enable effective knowledge and evidence handling in public-private sector engagements during an acute episode of conflict
- Contribute to the effective control of bovine TB by providing tools towards working amidst conflict, and out of conflict.


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Description We have discovered a range of views on the issue of badger culling to control TB. Our on-line deliberative forum results suggest that the debate remains heavily polarised, with farmers in one camp strongly pro-cull and nature lovers juxtaposed against them. The two main sides of the debate deploy different rhetorical arguments to support their case, and effectively 'talk passed' one another, rather than to each other. But the debate is not entirely polarised. We have also discovered a middle view. We uncovered the range of views using Q-Methodology, which is a useful way to keep operant subjectivity (that is keeping individuals' viewpoints relatively intact), which compares to measuring individual aspects of a view separately in survey research. Finally, in our face-to-face deliberative forum with those engaged with the debate, we found that individuals from different 'sides' of the debate may be able to work together to help craft local solutions to the issue of TB in cattle. We are continuing to work with local people engaged in the debate.
Exploitation Route Our findings are useful for everyone involved in the debate to find a way out of the current policy deadlock. We hope to be able to illustrate a way to 'do TB differently': to deploy a range of knowledges to find more workable solutions to the bTB epidemic in cattle other than blanket badger culling.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://exeterbovinetb.wordpress.com/
Description We are still working on output from this project. Note that this was an Rapid Response Mechanism Grant. Therefore, we were not funded to undertake impact work. Impact work is therefore mostly taking place after the project has ended and is on-going. In the course of the project, we have established working relationships with various governmental and non-governmental actors involved in the badger culling debate. Co-I McDonald is involved in regional meetings that seek to control bovine TB. He is vice-Chair of the Cornwall TB Eradication Board. Co-I Hinchliffe has been appointed to DEFRA's Science Advisory Council Social Science Expert Group. Our work has identified that individuals disagree on principles and/or facts. Where they disagree about only one of these (either principles or facts) we have been able to identify bridging concepts that allow conflictual parties to begin to align their views. Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT)have expressed interest in our findings and are keen to work with us on future projects. CWT has consequently modified its approach to communication about bTB and badger culling, consciously steering away from direct engagement about badger culling, to pro-actively pushing for badger vaccination. PI Saunders has an Impact Accelerator Award to learn lessons from the regional initiatives elsewhere in the country that we can bring back to the South West. She has attended regional board meetings in Wales and will shortly be talking to individuals involved in regional efforts to manage TB in order to share project findings pro-actively. We have also drafted policy briefings, which highlight the key lessons from our project. These will soon be disseminated to our project participants and to policy-makers and -shapers in DEFRA. The impact from this project will be delivered in the longer term through a University of Exeter wide strategy for bTB management. We are investigating tools and collaborations for appropriate ways to share academic findings. Give the complex nature of the problem and its resolution, a mutli-disciplinary approach is deemed appropriate.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Ecology and complexity of bovine tuberculosis control in wildlife and cattle 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Scientific discussion at symposium. Public engagement at broadcast public event as detailed above.

Discussion sparked debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7DwDUbbV4A&feature=youtu.be