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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." Because this has never been done before the idea is 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, £50million "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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In 2008, 75,000 were slaughtered because they were "not in calf"
In 2009, 120,000 cattle were slaughtered because they were infertile.
50,000 because of mastitis; 25,000 because of lameness;
and 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.
Control Measures Doc
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.