Are there social science areas for research?
I think social science has a major role to play in this. This isn’t just about badgers and cattle. It’s about badgers, cattle and farmers. And other members of the public as well — they have choices to make. We have to understand those social dynamics as much as we have to understand the epidemiological dynamics of the disease.
[For example,] we designate high-probability TB areas and low-probability TB areas, and some farmers will trade cattle out of the high-probability TB areas into the low-probability TB areas, and farmers in the low probability areas will buy them. For some reason, that occasionally happens. We need to understand these behaviors and try to incentivize non-risky behavior. You cannot regulate for absolutely everything. But if you incentivize the farming industry in the right way, what they will tend to do is multiply the benefits more than regulation will do.
How do you rate the chances of success within your tenure?
The chances of TB eradication or TB-free status within my tenure at Defra is zero. My tenure at Defra is another few years; we’re talking about decades here. I think that we can eradicate tuberculosis, but it all depends to some extent on resources — but, more than that, on the determination of people generally. And that doesn’t just include farmers; it includes other people who care about the countryside and about wildlife.