Published:


Lorraine
Platt is Founder of Blue Badger, IFAW Campaigner Winner 2012 and Inspiration Awards For Women 2013 Shortlist Nominee.

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 06.57.14The
Government’s disappointing plans to proceed with the badger cull from June this
year demonstrate how out of step with scientific evidence and public opinion
it is on the issue. Culling badgers will not eradicate bovine TB in cattle. The
case for culling badgers is weak. Scientific evidence shows that a cull will
only reduce TB in cattle by 16 per cent at best, and may actually spread the disease
further. It may be counterproductive, and does not provide a credible long term
solution to the problem of bovine tuberculosis.

The
British Veterinary Zoological Society has added its voice to the massive weight
of scientific and public opposition to the Coalition's proposed badger cull. Its website states: "BVZS does not believe there is currently scientific
evidence to suggest that a targeted cull of badgers can contribute positively
to the overall control of bTB in cattle, can be employed in a way that protects
animal welfare or is economically viable".

Last October, more than 30 leading scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and
wildlife diseases, announced publicly in a letter to the Observer: "We
believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks
increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it". They concluded:
"…culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB
eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy".

The letter
was signed by eminent scientists including Lord Krebs, Chairman of the House of
Lords Science and Technology Committee.  More recently, the opinion of former
government Chief Scientist Sir John Beddington that culling would have ‘little
effect’ was widely publicised in the media.

The Blue Badger website provides Conservative MP's quotes against the cull and also includes
the Bow Groups briefing on why the government should abandon badger culling
trials in favour of vaccination. The Conservative Animal Welfare website
further features a statement on its disappointment at the Government decision
to push ahead with selected badger culls. The Co- Chair of Conservative Animal Welfare and I recently sent a joint statement to all Conservative MPs and Ministers
with links to the scientific evidence against the badger cull.

Badgers are a protected species and a
valued intrinsic part of our countryside, loved by the British public. An e-petition recently attracted more than 263,000 public signatures against the
planned cull. Recently, a letter was sent to David Cameron signed by 100
celebrities
, conservation organisations, scientists and vets. Sir Roger Moore,
Joanna Lumley, Judi Dench and Brian Blessed were amongst the signatories
against the badger cull. Organisations included the RSPB, Greenpeace, Friends of
the Earth and many more.  

Blue Badger is very conscious of the
hardship that bovine TB causes in the farming community, but we
believe that a badger cull will not solve the problem. It is a false hope for farmers who need strong support and an effective solution which will work to
eradicate TB in cattle. Biosecurity and vaccination is the way forwards to
tackle the disease.

All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission
on farms by reducing cattle movements between farms and tightening biosecurity.
Stricter controls will help to reduce the disease. It is paramount that cattle
controls are strengthened. Farmers are increasingly speaking out against the
planned culls. This is what Steve Jones, a dairy specialist recently wrote about
them
:

"I have 35 years' livestock management
experience, and I live in the heart of the Forest of Dean – the cull area – and
I disagree. Killing badgers isn't the long-term or sustainable solution to
bovine TB control that farmers so desperately need. Shooting badgers is
politically motivated, not scientifically driven, and farmers need to realise
they're being sold a lame duck.

Over the
years, I have managed some of the highest-yielding dairy herds in the world
with consistently high levels of hygiene and disease resistance. Meticulous bio
security and sympathetic animal husbandry are the key to stamping out TB in
cattle, not shooting British wildlife. Farmers vilify badgers but TB is mainly transmitted cow to cow. So the
solution to eradicating TB lies with farmers themselves who must accept
responsibility for a disease that is all too easily spread back and forth
within and between herds due to poor management, lax bio security and
substandard animal care. A slow response in tackling the disease compounds the
problem, which can therefore soon reach epidemic proportions. I have seen it
many times with mad cow disease, foot and mouth and now bovine TB. Alas, the
farming industry prefers to scapegoat badgers rather than tackling these
fundamental problems."

There
is a viable alternative to the cull – vaccination. The Welsh Assembly recently
decided against badger culling and operates a vaccination programme for badgers
instead to tackle the TB problem. Opponents
of the cull claim that it will lose votes for Cameron in Middle England.
Yet he said recently that it takes "political courage" to
pursue the policy of culling of badgers in the face of widespread opposition.

Many
may question if it is a courageous or responsible commitment to pursue a policy
of badger culling despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against it. It
would demonstrate extraordinary courage and leadership to step back from a
misguided cull and follow Wales' example of badger vaccination instead of a
cull.

Recent Freedom of Information Act requests
provide some insight into just how inhumane the badger culls can be. Out of
5,500 badgers to be shot during the pilot culls, only 120 will be independently
monitored for "humaneness." There will only be four shoot monitors to
cover the whole of West Gloucestershire and West Somerset during the pilot
culls. The government has said that they won't be testing any culled badgers to
check whether they are infected with TB. It
is still not too late for the government to listen to the scientific evidence
and focus on vaccination for both badgers and cattle as the effective solution
forwards.

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