Lorraine Platt is the founder of Blue Badger.
The badger cull pilots have been widely reported as a disaster. It has been a shambles and it’s huge failings criticised by scientists, the media and MPs alike. It has failed on both scientific and humane grounds.
Only a quarter of the badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire were killed in the way the schemes were designed to test, official figures have shown. The revelation that only 24 per cent of the badgers in the two areas were culled using “controlled shooting” – shooting free-running badgers – in the original six-week culls has prompted criticism of government claims that the pilots were a success. Previous studies have shown that to be effective in reducing the disease in herds, culling had to remove 70 per cent of the badgers in an area. The pilot culls have been criticised for not being effective, as the overall number of badgers killed fell short of the 70 per cent benchmark. The targets were missed by so much it would probably increase the rates of TB instead through the perturbation effect.
It has been reported in the media that the Government has admitted that distorted data may have significantly exaggerated the number of herds infected by tuberculosis in Britain – raising fears that the pilot for its highly controversial badger cull could have been based on erroneous information. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson made the case for the badger cull using alarming data showing that thousands of herds were carrying the disease, and rates of new infections, known as the “incidence rate”, were rising. DEFRA said that a problem with data recording meant that the number of herds infected with TB had been “overstated” since September 2011, This in turn has misled farmers, MPs, the media and the general public on the extent of the bovine TB problem in the UK. The announcement that the number of herds with TB had been overstated seriously undermines a key element of the Government’s justification for its badger cull policy.
Bovine TB is a serious problem for our farmers and costs the taxpayer millions every year but no one wants to see the needless culling of an iconic protected species of the English countryside. Ten members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have written a letter to England’s Chief Veterinary Officer suggesting that the extension of the badger cull could result in increased suffering of badgers and place both badgers and cattle in and around the cull zones at greater risk of contracting bovine tuberculosis
There are huge costs to policing the culls and it’s impacts upon communities in the cull areas. Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has warned that a badger cull in the county of Dorset has the potential to ‘fracture communities’. Another Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl in Gloucestershire has expressed his concerns on the divisive nature of the cull amongst communities.
The pilot culls proved highly controversial and divisive. Costs spiralled, with the total bill for each badger killed estimated to be in excess of £4,000.
More than 1,800 badgers lost their lives in Somerset and Gloucestershire in the name of bovine tuberculosis control. From the very beginning, Blue Badger and our Team Badger colleagues warned that badgers would suffer. Now the government-commissioned report by independent experts, who have studied the evidence, has shown our deep concerns to be justified.
The independent report, leaked to the BBC at the end of February, shows that a significant proportion of free-shot badgers took more than five minutes to die. It has been reported that a third of badgers were shot in the wrong part of the body such as the head or neck, some wounded animals needing to be shot a second time, in some cases after being pursued for five to ten minutes.
Wales is nearing the end of its second year of vaccinating badgers and it has been reported in the media that the number of cattle slaughtered fell by a third. Alun Davies,the Farming Minister said Wales has reached its first target of halting the spread of the disease.
The Badger And Cattle Vaccination Initiative was launched at an event for MPs in Westminster in February 2014 to vaccinate badgers instead of culling. The website has information on the issue. Vaccination is here and our English badgers deserve the same treatment as Welsh badgers who are vaccinated instead of being culled.
The government, the British Veterinary Association and farmers unions must now abandon further badger culling and focus on stricter cattle measures, and promoting vaccination of both badgers and cattle.
In Thursday’s badger cull debate, Blue Badger urges MPs not to support any roll out badger culling plans – instead, we need to focus on vaccination to tackle the Bovine TB crisis
There should be no further badger culling because it is neither warranted nor justified. Vaccination of badgers and cattle is now the only way forward.