The Badger Cull
In September 2017, DEFRA announced the continuation and expansion of the killing of thousands of badgers across England in an attempt to control tuberculosis in cattle. 11 new zones were confirmed. With up to 33,500 badgers shot during the autumn of 2017, this meant a huge rise from the 10,000 culled during 2016.
In total, by the end of 2017, an estimated 48,000 badgers will be dead as a result of the cull.
Despite the IEP assessment, parliamentary debates, further scientific reports, and an ever growing opposition, the Government have still allowed the badger culls to continue. By the end of 2017, the Badger Trust estimate that over £50 million will be spent on the culls, with every taxpayer in the UK having no choice but to fund this budget
3rd September. It has been officially announced that despite all the scientific evidence, being proven to be inhumane, and the fact they have failed to achieve their targets, David Cameron and the Conservatives have decided to give the go ahead for a third year of Badger Culls and have also increased the cull zones to Dorset!
Dominic Dyer of the Badger Trust said “The decision to extend the badger cull to Dorset in particular has no scientific justification as the County has seen one of the largest declines in bTB rates in England with a 37.25% drop between 2012 to 2014 without killing any badgers.”
DEFRA figures show:
2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000
2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000 ( £6.3 million, with an additional £3.5 million spent on policing)
The total number of badgers culled in the first year was 940 in Somerset and 921 in Gloucestershire.
2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000
Target: 615-1091 badgers
Actual: 274 (166 shot, 108 cage trapped and shot)
Target: 316-785 badgers
Actual: 314 (147 shot, 194 cage trapped and shot)
Total costs – £16,777,000 Total Badgers – 2476
That is £6775.8 per badger!!!!
The main aim of these trials was to assess the humaneness of culling using “free shooting” (previous methods trapped the badgers in cages before shooting them). An Independent Expert Panel raised concerns about the humaneness of shooting as a culling method in their report in April 2014, highlighting that standards of humaneness needed to be improved if culling was to continue in the pilot areas. The Government announced that the culls would continue, with amendments to improve effectiveness in the proportion of badgers killed and time taken for shot badgers to die.
The second year of the cull took place in autumn 2014.
Minimum and maximum numbers of badgers to be removed were set in both pilot areas in August 2014. A target of 615 to 1091 badgers was set in Gloucestershire and 316 to 785 in Somerset
Minimum targets for the number of badgers to be culled to meet licence conditions was met in Somerset, but not in Gloucestershire.
If you wish to support Vaccination of badgers instead of culling why not try and lobby your local council by joining “Operation Badger”
Despite Owen Paterson arguing that it is the “Badgers that are moving the goalposts” he and the government are continuing to alter figures to suit and are ignoring the scientific facts!
Earlier this year there has been an increase in biosecurity being rolled out on farms and restrictions put in place for cattle movement. We’ve seen a 2-3% reduction in Btb with no badgers killed. Despite the Improvements being made, there are still infringements being reported of swapping ear tags, falsification of documents and failure to declare cattle movements. So what government incentives are there for farmers to install badger proof gates & not buy cattle from high incidence of Btb areas? The government seem blinkered.
Back In December 2011, Defra updated their policy on tackling bovine tb (Btb) and announced its plans to launch a “science-led policy of badger control” Involving the use of “free shooting” to minimise costs. They stated “The two pilots, carried out over a period of six weeks, will be closely managed & monitored to examine how safe, effective and humane a method this is. An independent panel of experts will be asked to oversee and evaluate the pilots and report to Ministers, before a decision is made on whether to roll out the policy more widely.”
It was stipulated that Culling must remove a minimum number of badgers each year. In the first year of culling, a minimum number of badgers must be removed through an intensive cull which again must be carried out over a period of not more than six consecutive weeks. This minimum number should be set at a level that in Natural England’s judgement should reduce the estimated badger population of the application area by at least 70%. This is to provide confidence that at least the same benefits as seen in the RBCT will be achieved: 70% of badgers must be removed and will be judged as how effective the cull is.
However on the 5th nov 2013 it was announced that despite a 3 week extension to the 6 week cull inSomerset, another 90 badgers had been killed, taking the total to 940 – an overall fall of 65%. Surely then, the culling of 65% even after 9 weeks has proven that the culling by free shooting is ineffective and should be halted! Unfortunately, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, played down the below-par results, insisting sufficient animals were “removed” to suggest a four-year scheme would have “clear benefits” in tackling btb. An eight-week extension to the cull in Gloucestershire was cut short due to falling numbers of badgers seen by the marksmen, where 921 of an estimated 2,350 badgers – just short of 40% of the total – were killed. The failure to meet the targets is despite the estimates of the pre-cull badger numbers being revised significantly downwards, not once, but twice! However on 2nd December Owen Paterson told parliament “The extension in Gloucestershire has therefore been successful in meeting its aim in preparing the ground for a fully effective four year cull.” The licence was due to run until 18 December 2013. As the close season for cage trapping and shooting began on 1 December, only controlled shooting would have been permitted from 1-18 December, this is to avoid cruel ill treatment to the animal or to any dependent off-spring!!
The Humaneness of the cull is to be judged by experts monitoring how accurately badgers were being shot in the dark, and carcasses examined to see whether the animals were likely to be dying swiftly. Defra originally intended to sample 240 badgers killed during the pilot culls but have now confirmed only 120 badgers targeted will be collected for examination of humaneness and that half of these badgers will have been shot while caged. Thus only 1.1 percent of badgers killed by free shooting will be tested for humaneness of shooting. No badgers will be tested for Bovine TB.
These pilot culls have deviated completely from their original purpose of testing the method of free shooting, which was abandoned in favour of cage trapping. They no longer bear any resemblance to the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) and so cannot be expected to deliver comparable disease benefits, which were modest at best. In fact, the trails could have increased the risk to livestock at a cost of millions of pounds, whilst putting local badger populations at risk.
In a written statement to MPs giving the latest figures, Mr Paterson said: “Before the extension was licensed by Natural England, the advice of the chief veterinary officer was that a further increase in the number of badgers culled after the initial six-week period would improve the disease control benefits achieved even further and enable them to accrue earlier. With the further removal of badgers seen, the extension has been successful in meeting this aim.” Initial indications, pending the findings of an independent expert panel, were that the pilot was “safe and humane”, he said.
“These findings will be made available to Parliament and the public after the culls have concluded and inform my decision on the wider roll-out of badger control in those parts of England most severely affected by this disease. This Government is committed to tackling the disease in all reservoirs and by all available means.” Use of snares and gassing have reared their barbaric & ugly heads again!
In October 2012, MPs voted 147 in favour of a motion to stop the imminent cull and 28 against. The debate, prompted by a public petition, recorded 303,929 signatures breaking the record for the largest number of people ever to sign a government e-petition. However a Labour motion calling for the cull to be abandoned was defeated in the House of Commons by 49 votes. Government whips ensured this victory for ministers.
Defra and Natural England are unwilling to divulge the methodology of the pilot culls. The details of the ongoing pilot culls will not be released whilst they are taking place and DEFRA will not divulge how the success of the trials will be measured. As a result, scientists, the RSPCA and other animal charities have called for greater transparency over the pilot badger culls.
The Badger Trust, believes that vaccination will help eradicate the disease, not culling. It doesn’t cure them, but it reduces the possibility of any further infection…in the region of a 75% level of protection. The life span of a badger is about five years. So if you continue the vaccination project for five years, then the majority of animals that were there at the beginning will have died out. The vaccination programme is leading towards a clean and healthy badger population.
On 20/3/12 it was announced that the Welsh Government have made a science-based decision to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis instead of culling.
Due to the realization that there are more badgers than was first predicted, leading to increased costs to farmers to fund the Cull, Owen Paterson postponed the Cull until the Summer of 2013.
The Coalition Government announced plans to have a “scientifically led” Cull of Badgers, in targeted hotspot areas in England. The plan is to eradicate the disease of Bovine TB in cattle, which has had such an impact on farmers, livestock and wildlife.
However due to the Win over the Welsh proposed Cull, by the Badger Trust, the English Government have had to try to make their plans water tight. Part of their plan was to cage trap badgers and then shoot them but because of the costs involved they want land owners to shoot “free running badgers.” This has never been done before and so the idea was to carry out trials in two “Hot spot” areas. Carolyn Spellman on 14th Dec 2011 announced the go ahead for this trial. Over a period of 6 weeks, Badgers will be enticed to feeding areas and shot. 70% of the badgers in that area must be killed within the 6 week period and they are to be tested to see if the animals died “humanely” or not. No tests will be carried out to see what percentage of those badgers were actually carrying BTB. The 10 year, £50 million “Krebs trial” found that 1 in 7 Badgers carried Btb in “Hot Spot” areas and this was backed up by testing road kill around the area which gave similar results of 15%. Bearing in mind these tests will be carried out in remote areas, at night, how will this be effectively monitored?
Defra also during dec 2011 announced a National Badger Survey presumably to estimate the number of Badgers in England so as to comply with the Bern convention. So far Defra assigned 55 staff to visit badger cull areas to take DNA samples and conduct sett surveys. 61.7km(2) of land has been surveyed in West Somerset, and 74.4km(2) in West Gloucestershire.This is estimated to have cost £850,000 and is still only an estimate of numbers so how can they prove that 70% have been killed?
There is no doubting that Badgers can suffer from BTB. Due to their very nature, they forage for grubs and beetles in the Bovines (cows) dung. It is certain that the disease came from Cattle but it is still unclear quite how it is passed (if indeed it is) back to cattle. It is assumed, as Badgers have been filmed entering grain stores and cattle feed troughs and defecating in them. By increasing farm bio security this possible risk is drastically reduced and would seem to be good practice in any case. Other Mammals such as farm cats, dogs, Deer, Rats and Lamas all have tested positive over the years for TB so why is the government blinkered on culling the Badger?
As was the case with Rabies, history shows by vaccinating foxes, with bait left out, the disease was drastically reduced, further reductions were then made by tight restrictions imposed on animal movement. Herd immunity was achieved and thus the disease died out.
Vaccinations are available for the badgers and there were plans to test these in 6 areas during the summer of 2010 but due to the coalition government pulling funds, this was reduced to just one area. Vaccines are now available, not only for the Badger but also for Cattle. Georg Haeusler, Chef de Cabinet for Agriculture, was asked by representatives of “Team Badger,” “would the EU not let us vaccinate cows?” His reply was “You British are welcome to. You would find it was not possible to sell cows into the mainland of Europe because we would be risking bringing bTB into our countries, but you do not export live cows to us anyway. It would be meat and milk and other ‘‘products’’ made from cattle that would be proscribed. But there would be no police descending on you if you began vaccinating tomorrow.’A directive from the European Commission of December 13, 1977, prohibits ‘anti-tuberculosis vaccination’ in any ‘plan for the accelerated eradication of tuberculosis’. Basically the Cattle vaccine has not been used because we have been informed that the EU have not got a test (DIVA) that will distinguish between a cow with TB and a Cow that has been Vaccinated! Well now we have! It is ready and has been tested in a laboratory in Surrey. Mr Haeusler said: ‘If you can prove this test works, there would be no reason for us to ban the import of the products derived from your cattle.’But what about the directive? He said: ‘It would be changed quickly.’ Owen Paterson who took the place of sacked MP Jim Paice, still maintains that this would take years. The Government should be spending its resources pushing for vaccinating cattle not killing our native wildlife!
Mr Haeusler also argued that the fact that Britain is the only country in Europe to have a bTB problem is no accident. ‘Over 30 years ago, Europe decided on a policy of destroying a whole herd when TB presented itself.’ Britain decided to adopt a cheaper option. “Instead of eliminating the whole herd, we opted to take out individual animals. But infected cows do not always show up. And when TB reoccurs, it is all too easy for farmers to blame badgers. Badger culls do nothing more than divert attention from the real failure of the NFU, Defra and the Coalition to tackle bTB. It is time to call off the cull and get on with combating TB properly” writes Brian May.
Stricter penalties for failing to meet DEFRA guidelines, moving Cattle from infected areas and missing BTB tests amongst Cattle is a must. Rewards for those Farmers who have tighter bio security measures and good animal husbandry should be promoted, not paying subsidies for sick animals to be killed. Reductions in compensation for failures of these measures are welcomed.
Lord Krebs, author of the Scientific badger cull trial 1997 and Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientific adviser, both questioned the proposed cull scheme. On 16 November 2010, in the House of Lords, farming minister Lord Henley said the scientific advice was “quite clear” that badger culling could be effective. He said that more than 25,000 cattle had to be compulsorily slaughtered last year and described bovine TB as “Britain’s biggest endemic animal health issue”.
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75,000 were slaughtered because they were “not in calf”
120,000 cattle were slaughtered because they were infertile.
50,000 because of mastitis;
25,000 because of lameness
& 7,000 because they were “low yield”. Not to mention the male dairy calves that are killed at birth because they are unprofitable.
Lord Krebs asked him: “Do you agree with the estimate of your own officials that, based on the results of the randomized badger culling trials, long-term intensive culling of badgers would lead to a 16% reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle over a nine-year period?” “Even this very modest reduction, leaving 84% of the problem unaffected, would be only achievable with highly-effective, large-scale long-term culling, otherwise culling will make the problem worse.”
Lord Henley replied: “On-going monitoring since the end of those trials has indicated that the positive impacts on herd breakdowns within the culled areas have continued to last a considerable number of years after they ended and have seen a reduction of some 28% in those areas “So, there is a reduction and it is a considerable reduction. We have never said that culling is the sole answer. “We have always made it clear that we believe that there will be other measures that need to be taken and we need every tool in the toolbox.”
Please read through the control measures document for a better understanding.