Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?
22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM
Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?
13 Sep 2014, 6:54 PM
The badger cull is apparently the 5th most common issue which MPs have been approached about in last 12 months ahead of issues such as child support, care of the elderly, social security, pensions etc
25 'Badger Army' marches have been held in many towns and cities to date with thousands of people attending and huge media coverage - all playing a key role in keeping up the political pressure. Dates are being finalised for forthcoming marches in Oxford, Swindon and Winchester in October, November and December once the pilot culls are over.
12 Sep 2014, 6:26 PM
The absurdity of the Government’s plans to start killing badgers again is revealed by the revised targets announced last week. A minimum of 316 and a maximum of 785 badgers are to be killed in West Somerset, more in Gloucestershire.
Putting aside the facts that fewer than half the farms taking part have any cattle on them and that the scientific consensus is against culling as an effective way of reducing TB in cattle, the numbers don’t add up.
The stated aim has always been to kill 70% of the local badgers. Any less than 70% risks making the TB problem worse, any more risks local extinction. The lower target of 316, is that 70% of the badger population in West Somerset, meaning there are only 451 live badgers in total? In that case, killing 785 of them would clearly be impossible – it would mean wiping out the entire local population 1.7 times. But if the upper target, 785, is 70% of the total number of badgers, meaning there are 1,121 live badgers in West Somerset? Killing only 316 of them would be less than 30%, well below the 70% target.
Has this arbitrary 70% target been abandoned? If so why? Is the government plucking figures out of thin air so that it can hail their ludicrous cull as a success in a desperate attempt to save face after last year’s spectacular failure to reach anything like their own targets for humanness and effectiveness?
Perhaps landowners in West Somerset who are so keen on slaughtering badgers, particularly the large pheasant shoots and the farms which have not adopted even the simplest of measures to minimise contact between cattle and wildlife as recommended on Defra’s website, can explain the logic behind these numbers. Even with a science degree I can’t.
Campaigners have won the right to appeal over a ruling on the legality of the latest badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, which began on Monday.
Last month the Badger Trust lost a High Court bid after arguing "controlled shooting" should only take place with independent observers overseeing it.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay said the trust had some arguable points and the appeal may have a real prospect of success.
An independent expert panel (IEP) oversaw the first year of the culls.
'No plausible grounds' The panel reported that controlled shooting could not deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in bovine TB and was not humane.
Defra decided to continue the programme this year without an IEP in place.
This led to accusations by the Badger Trust of an unlawful breach of a "legitimate expectation" that the IEP would monitor the entire pilot cull and subsequent legal battle.
But Mr Justice Kenneth Parker ruled there were "no plausible grounds" to support the legitimate expectation claim.
During the appeal hearing, Lord Justice Maurice Kay said it was unlikely it would be possible to arrange the one-day hearing before the end of the six-week cull but that did not mean that the appeal - if successful - would be pointless.
"There will be implications arising out of that success as to the future development of the policy," he said.
'Inhumane and ineffective' The government and farmers insist culling is necessary to tackle TB in livestock, which saw more than 26,000 cattle slaughtered in England last year and multi-million-pound losses.
But opponents say culling is inhumane and ineffective and alternatives such as vaccination should be pursued. The 2013 cull saw 921 badgers killed in Gloucestershire and 940 in Somerset.
This year, the minimum number of badgers to be culled is just under 1,000.
The maximum number of badgers that can be culled has been set at 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset.
12 Sep 2014, 6:17 PM
Conservative Animal Welfare Chairman and Blue Badger Founder condemn the 2014 Badger Culls
The news that the pilot badger cull has started in Gloucestershire and Somerset once again this year was condemned by the Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and the Founder of Blue Badger
Suzy Gale, Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and Lorraine Platt of Blue Badger said: “It is very disappointing that the culls have continued despite Natural England's own Scientific Advisor branding last year’s culls an epic failure. The Government's own Independent Expert Panel showed that the pilot culls were both ineffective and inhumane. This year's cull will not even be assessed by independent experts.”
Lorraine Platt added:' It is bizarre to hear ministers claiming 'It is not an option to do nothing'. Of course action needs to be taken but it's important to take the right necessary action which should be to vaccinate badgers instead of culling them. We call for England to follow Wales successful example of tackling TB and implement annual cattle testing and vaccinate badgers in the high risk TB areas. The Welsh Chief Vet recently said that she did not understand DEFRA's strategy of vaccinating badgers in low risk edge areas. Wales operates badger vaccination in the Intensive Action Area of TB disease.
Eminent scientists have spoken out against the cull because it will not significantly reduce incidents of bovine TB. The previous government hugely culled over 11,000 badgers at a cost of £50 million pounds over many years, only for the Independent Scientific Group ( ISG) report of 2007 to conclude that culling badgers makes no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. This Government does not need to futilely repeat badger culling and should learn from the ISG scientific Report conclusion that the rising incidence of TB disease can be reversed and geographical spread contained by the rigid application of cattle control measures alone.
The British Veterinary Association declared its support for the pilot culls last year on the basis that they would reveal whether free shooting could be done humanely. In a letter from the then BVA President said "our support for the culls will be withdrawn if it is shown that they are not humane". However, in spite of the Independent Expert Panel concluding that the badger culls were not humane, the BVA has not withdrawn its support for further culling. The ISG Report letter is especially relevant and its final paragraph conclusion as valid today as it was in 2007 when it was sent to the then Secretary of State:
'Our report provided advice on the need for Defra to develop disease control strategies based on scientific findings. Implementation of such strategies will require Defra to institute more effective operational structures and the farming and veterinary communities to accept the scientific findings. If this can be achieved, the ISG is confident that the measures outlined in this Report will greatly improve TB control in Britain'.
Sadly, for our Farmers, cattle and wildlife, the scientific advice has still not been heeded by Ministers and once again a pointless unnecessary cull continues. Culling badgers is not the solution. The solution lies in if the government will finally listen to sound science and focus on cattle based measures instead of badger culling as scientists have advised for many years.
CONTACT: Lorraine Platt – firstname.lastname@example.org
12 Sep 2014, 6:16 PM
Labour Party Conference Debate on Badger Culling – 22nd September 2014
An important debate on the badger cull, hosted by Badger Trust and Care for the Wild will take place on Monday 22nd September as part of the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.
The debate will be held at Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester from 3pm to 5pm.
Everyone is welcome to attend and the debate is free. If you have not already registered your interest in attending please email email@example.com
12 Sep 2014, 1:46 PM
Despite the overwhelming evidence and opposition against culling the second year of shooting started this week. Let's not forget that the vast majority of Badgers being slaughtered in Somerset and Gloucestershire will be healthy - as are the millions of cattle killed in the name of bovine TB. Below are articles and information that may be of interest.
Badger-killing begins gain in England, despite evidence it doesn’t help cattle (http://www.newsweek.com/badger-killing-begins-again-england-despite-evidence-it-doesnt-help-cattle-269485#.VBErp2BCX8g.mailto)
Team Badger, representing 25 different organisations with a total of 2 million supporters, is calling for the second year of badger culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire to be stopped. www.itv.com/news/west/update/2014-09-09/team-badger-speaks-out-against-culls/
In Gloucestershire on the first night of the cull at about midnight, a couple of experienced protesters apparently came across this badger trapped in a cage. Just as they approached other people were spotted nearby. It was the cull team. A tense stand off then went on for some time before police arrived on the scene. The protesters quickly sought legal advice from someone who has read and re-read the best practice guidelines and then informed police that the badger had to be released for two reasons: cage trapped badgers are to be shot between dawn and noon. shooters must release trapped badgers if third parties are on the scene. The police did the right thing and and enforcing the guidelines, they got the shooters to leave the area and then the police released the badger. https://www.facebook.com/stop.the.cull/photos/a.258053550967020.46577.258050920967283/568866643219041/?type=1&relevant_count=1
"If you read the document you'll see it is full of caveats about the unreliability of the methods they have used. To then use such methods to derive some target numbers in an attempt to give the culls an air of scientific credibility is an affront to the principles of good science." DR CHRIS CHEESEMAN
'How, with the staggering weight of evidence against killing badgers as an effective tool to combat bTB, can the #badgercull be resumed?' SIMON KING
In turn, an appeal was made to the Information Commissioners Office on grounds that a simple number cannot be used to identify any of the individuals involved in the badger cull particularly as the precise geographical area designated as the cull zone has not been disclosed. Therefore supplying a simple number cannot be judged to be a risk to public safety or the environment under EIR Regulations exceptions 12(5)(a) and 12(5)(g).
For info, the ICO have published the decision notice relating to our complaint against Natural England on their website - here's link to PDF
TB levels in New Zealand, Ireland & Great Britain and what each country has spent on wildlife control in an attempt to reduce TB. No surprise to see GB has spent considerably more than the others - and for what really?
Parliamentary Question on security aspect - Chris Williamson MP has tabled this question:
'Is the SoS convinced of the safety of the 2014 pilot badger cull when unlike the previous year, shooters will be allowed to operate without safety lookouts and shooters will be allowed to shoot badgers from a greater distance than the previous year?'
6 Sep 2014, 10:43 AM
Just how safe will the current culling operations be? It is clear there is still massive opposition and so again there will be protests. However, this year it seems it is being scaled down and there will be no independent monitoring or indeed few controls of any kind so we ask: how safe will the culling operations be for the public when...
1. New Guidelines allow lone shooters to operate without safety lookouts?
2. New Guidelines allow lone shooters using Night Vision to shoot badgers from a greater distance than than last year and away from fixed bait points?
3. Given the reports re the conduct of some of the cull contractors last year how can the public feel safe with no independent monitoring?
4. How can the cull contractors Gloscon be allowed to be shooting in public areas at night when they have employees under criminal investigation for firearms offences during the last cull?
5. If any of the above are of concern to Glos Constabulary then have they expressed these concerns to Defra or the Home Secretary? If not, why not?
Last year police officers on the ground had no detailed maps of the cull zone nor information on whether specific sites had consent for culling to take place, so…
6) Will individual officers be better equipped with detailed maps this year?
b) If yes then will these maps be provided to the public?
c) If no then how will officers know if cullers are committing offences under the protection of Badgers Act 1992 by breaching their licence conditions?
7) If detailed cull-zone maps are not made public then how will the public know where they can be can be safe from culling activities?
8) If detailed cull-zone maps are not made public then how will the public know how to respond to officer requests to leave the cull zone, if so directed?
During last year’s we understand cull protesters reported and provided evidence for repeated harassment and violent offences by cullers and their supporters with little or no response from police…
9) What actions are Glos Constabulary taking this year to safeguard peaceful protesters from this kind of violence, harassment and intimidation?
10) During last year's cull one pro-cull offender was named in 9 separate recorded incidents of intimidation against protesters yet nothing was done to stop him. What action will Glos Constabulary take this year to prevent such prolific offending this year?
6 Sep 2014, 8:19 AM
As the expensive, unpopular and ineffective badger culling continues we hear that the Government has confirmed that the TB vaccine field trials have been delayed until 2015. This is appalling. It is a shame that the effort put into badger culling is not, instead put into vaccination - surely a more acceptable and effective option bearing in mind the field trials in Ethiopia and Mexico have suggested that the protective effect of vaccination was between 58% and 68%?
Extensive field trials were due to begin in the UK this year, but they have been pushed back amid continued discussions over the cost of the project.
The field trial costs are estimated at “tens of millions of pounds”, a spokesman for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency said.
However, despite the delay, the AHVLA said the government was still “100% committed” to staging field trials in this country.
Defra has commissioned a consortium, including Triveritas UK, scientists from the AHVLA and Cambridge University, to design field trials of a vaccine to protect cattle against TB.
Triveritas, which specialises in clinical trials in livestock, will design the field trials as well as a trial for a new cattle TB diagnostic test – known as a DIVA test – which is needed to distinguish between infected cows and cows that have been immunised.
The trial design work, which is expected to be completed this autumn, will be subject to the granting of an Animal Test Certificate (ATC) by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
The certificate is required to permit field trials of an otherwise unauthorised vaccine in the UK.
An AHVLA spokesman insisted that the trials would start in 2015 but “were likely to depend upon a positive cost analysis of the use of a cattle vaccine and DIVA test contributing to the control of bovine TB in the UK”.
Defra has said developing a TB vaccine for cattle and badgers remains a “high priority” in its 25-year bovine TB eradication programme.
Small-scale field trials in Ethiopia and Mexico have suggested that the protective effect of vaccination was between 58% and 68%. But confirmation of effectiveness in UK conditions will need to be confirmed by large-scale field trials in England and Wales.
Vaccination of cattle against TB is currently prohibited by EU legislation, principally because BCG (Bacille Calmette Guerin) vaccination can interfere with the tuberculin skin test, the most commonly used diagnostic test for TB in cattle.
Meanwhile, a recent review of research into TB vaccination in cattle and badgers warned that developing vaccines for tackling the problem was “challenging, time-consuming and resource-intensive”. As millions of pounds have already been spent on vaccination projects one wonders just what has been achieved from past work?
The review, published in the Veterinary Record, said Defra and the Welsh government were working with the European Commission to enable vaccination of cattle to be conducted in UK field trials, in order to “change the legislation on the use of cattle TB vaccines in the medium to long term”.
It added: “The field trials of cattle vaccine offer significant benefits through better understanding of vaccine efficacy and DIVA test characteristics, but also face substantial challenges relating to legal and practical delivery.
“Given the likely large scale of the vaccine field trial, they will need to be supported by a strong cost-benefit case. The ultimate endpoint of using BCG in cattle without trade restrictions may not be achieved until 2023.”
In this parliament (2010-15), the coalition government is spending £24.6m on the development of cattle and badger TB vaccines.
Applications to BEVS are open from now until 27th February 2015.
6 Sep 2014, 8:08 AM
Reading a recent article on the NFU's website (www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/working-to-stop-the-spread-of-bovine-tb) is this the clearest sign yet of division on the culling issue in their membership.? Does it mark the first sign of a roll back from a national cull policy at all costs position with the NFU? Despite this though it would appear from the more recent reports that the second round of culling is due to start in Glos and Somerset - with this Monday 3rd September, being mooted as the official start date.
1 Sep 2014, 1:02 PM
The Annual Report GB Cattle Health & Welfare Group 2012 shows which diseases most concern farmers and - surprise, surprise - it is not bovine TB - so we are being misled by this government ...?
Top Ten - with no mention of bovine TB (source: various industry bodies)
Fertility Mastitis Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheltis Bovine Viral Diarrhea Johne's Disease (another Microbacteria and can cuase adverse reaction with bTB skin test) Liver Fluke Nutrition Calf Pneumonia Calf Scour Parasitic Gastroenteritis/Lungworm
Badger Trust court challenge rejected, but serious concerns remain over continuation of pilot culls
The Administrative Court has today handed down its judgment in Badger Trust’s judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to continue the pilot culls without independent oversight.
In line with the precautionary approach adopted by the Secretary of State during the development and implementation of the policy, Badger Trust had understood from statements made by her predecessors that an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) would oversee, and analyse the results from, the pilot culls until a final decision was made on whether or not to roll out the culls to other areas.
However, despite the IEP finding that the first year of the pilot culls failed (by a significant margin) to achieve appropriate standards of both effectiveness and humaneness, the Secretary of State decided to continue the pilot culls with a view to a future roll-out, but without independent oversight to ensure such standards can actually be met. The Badger Trust therefore brought proceedings to prevent the Secretary of State from breaking her promise.
The Administrative Court has today found that, as a matter of law, the Secretary of State’s assurances did not amount to an enforceable legitimate expectation. However, the Court also rejected the Secretary of State’s attempt to argue that if there was a legitimate expectation she had properly considered whether she could resile from it.
Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust, commented:
“The Trust is considering its options in respect of an appeal against the Court’s decision. However, this judgment does not detract from the serious public concerns over the continuation of the cull, including the most recent leaks regarding potentially unlawful and unsafe activity undertaken by culling contractors during the 2013 culls. Given the indisputable failure of the 2013 culls, the still unresolved issues regarding safety and the significant uncertainty over the numbers of badgers to be killed in 2014, the only sensible option for the Secretary of State is to call a halt to these pilots, and the potentially unnecessary and inhumane deaths of hundreds of badgers.
“However, if she is not willing to do so, we call on Ms Truss to reinstate the IEP. As Counsel for the Trust, David Wolfe QC, observed during the hearing, the Secretary of State is not just moving the goal posts, but has banished the independent referee from the pitch. Whatever happens during the second year of the culls, in the absence of the IEP, it will be impossible to trust any findings supporting a wider roll out, not least because this is already clearly the preferred option of the Secretary of State."
28 Aug 2014, 6:44 PM
Dear Clifford Hodge
Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s policy of supporting the culling of badgers to address the issue of bovine TB. I am sorry for the delay in replying.
There is cross-party agreement on the need to eradicate bovine TB, not least because this disease led to 24,618 cattle being compulsorily slaughtered in Great Britain between January and September alone last year. However, the Labour Party does not agree with the Government that the solution to this issue is simply the mass culling of badgers. The evidence does not support the Government’s policy and it is clear that Ministers have repeatedly chosen to ignore the independent scientific advice they have received.
As Labour repeatedly warned would be the case, the trial badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset failed. Prior to the start of the trials, the Government stated that “it would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70 per cent of the populations” and “the killing/taking of badgers must be limited to a six-week cull period specified in each licence.” However, as it became clear that the trials were not succeeding, Ministers wrongly backed extensions beyond the six-week limit and revised downwards the target reduction in the badger population within each trial area. Therefore, contrary to Owen Paterson’s ridiculous claim that “the badgers moved the goalposts” it was in fact the former Secretary of State who repeatedly did so. Even after the culls were extended, the badger population in the Gloucestershire trial was only reduced by an estimated 65 per cent, while the trial in Somerset achieved a population reduction of just 39 per cent at the time it was abandoned. The Government has also been forced to admit that only 24 per cent of the badgers killed were by controlled shooting, which was precisely the method that the pilots were supposed to be testing. It is estimated that these failed culls may have cost as much as £7 million to date, equivalent to more than £4,000 per badger killed. Most worryingly, leading independent scientists have warned that the decision to extend the cull and the failure to cull 70 per cent of the badger population may have increased the spread of bovine TB as a result of perturbation.
In April the Independent Expert Panel reported that the trial culls had failed the test for ‘humaneness’, as well as ‘effectiveness’. This was despite Defra restricting the scope of the report to only cover “the initial cull period, not the extensions”. Yet the Government’s reaction to this damning verdict of their policy has been to continue with the Gloucestershire and Somerset culls regardless. The Government have also announced they will not allow independent expert scrutiny for the remainder of the Gloucestershire and Somerset culls. It is shocking that Ministers are more interested in putting personal prejudice at the heart of their policy-making than following scientific evidence.
Since the end of the trials, Ministers have also revealed that there has been over-reporting of the incidence of TB in herds under restriction and the incidence rate of bovine TB since September 2011. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories has stated that this is likely to result in the “significant downwards revision” of the data. This is an appalling development considering the fact that these statistics have been a crucial part of the Government’s case for proceeding with the culling of badgers. Even before this revelation, it is clear that the Government has repeatedly over-played the extent to which badgers are responsible for spreading TB across England. Recent research by Prof. Christl Donnelly showed that herd-to-herd transmission of bovine TB in cattle accounts for 94 per cent of cases, while around 6 per cent of infected cattle catch TB directly from badgers. This research backs up the evidence from the Randomised Badger Cull Trial funded by Labour when in government which identified cattle transmission as playing a significant role in the spread of Bovine TB.
Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to abandon their failed policy. I am clear that to press ahead with further culls is not only unscientific, but irresponsible and reckless. On 13th March MPs were given a chance to debate the culls in parliament, and voted 219-1 against the Government’s policy. I have said that the Secretary of State should listen to the House rather than continuing this failed cull. However, as Elizabeth Truss has committed to continuing with these culls, the least she should be doing is allowing independent expert oversight. The Independent Expert Panel should be allowed to provide a full, accurate and independent assessment of the trials and advise on the way forward. Finally, the Government should also reveal all the details of the cost to the taxpayer of this disastrous policy, including the costs of extending the trials.
As I have said, we do need a serious strategy to eradicate bovine TB, but it has got to be based on the science. It is time to restore evidence-based policy making to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I intend to do so if Labour wins the next election. All the evidence and expert advice that I have seen suggests that the most effective strategy will need to focus on badger vaccination and enhanced measures to address herd to herd transmission, including compulsory post-movement testing, a comprehensive risk-based trading system, and more robust bio-security on farms. If elected, Labour will work with farmers, wildlife groups and leading scientists to develop this alternative strategy to eradicate bovine TB, including tackling TB in badgers.
Maria Eagle MP | Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
27 Aug 2014, 6:46 PM
'A High Court judgment on the lawfulness of the 2014 badger cull is awaited. A criminal investigation is under way on the dangerous and illegal behaviour of culling contractors. Obviously', writes Lesley Docksey, 'it's the perfect time for Natural England to authorise another round of culling'.
This very thought provoking piece can be read in full at: www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2532035/defying_reality_natural_england_authorises_unlawful_cull.html
27 Aug 2014, 9:40 AM
If you are interested in knowing how the government worked out the culling numbers proposed for Glos and Somerset this year then read: DEFRA's paper published August 2014, 'Setting the minimum and maximum numbers for Year 2 of the badger culls - Advice to Natural England' - all pure guess work!
"If you read the document you'll see it is full of caveats about the unreliability of the methods they have used. To then use such methods to derive some target numbers in an attempt to give the culls an air of scientific credibility is an affront to the principles of good science.” (Dr Chris Cheeseman)
Clearly there are many Conservatives now opposed to the expensive, ineffective, cruel badger cull and one open letter to the new Environment Minister is below.
It is undeniable that the badger cull has been a disaster. During your first Defra Question & Answer session you stated that you would ask Natural England to look at ways the badger cull is going and its future even though the Chair of Natural England’s science advisory committee, Professor David McDonald, branded the badger cull in July as an “epic failure’ .
Tim Coulson, Professor of Zoology at Oxford University and one of the experts on the Independent Panel Expert report criticised the cull as ineffective. The long list of eminent scientists speaking out against the dismal cull is doing incalculable damage to the reputation of the government by not listening to scientific evidence against culling badgers.
Government claims that badger culling is needed to tackle tuberculosis in cattle based on successes in other countries are “seriously flawed”, a group of 19 vets has said in a letter to the Veterinary Record, saying that very few countries had needed to kill wildlife as part of TB control programmes. In New Zealand, brush tail possums have been targeted to tackle TB, but the species is not a native breed, has caused significant problems for other wildlife and has very different habits and social structure to badgers, the vets said. They added that the efficacy of “indiscriminate” culling of badgers to control TB in cattle was not supported by scientific evidence
National newspapers reported this summer that despite public protests, a total of 924 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire last autumn and a further 955 in Somerset, costing taxpayers almost £8 million. Furthermore that just four of the nearly 2,000 badgers killed during the controversial government cull were tested for disease, with only one of those animals being found to have TB.
New revelations from a whistleblowing cull supervisor published in the Sunday Times on the 10th August show “the utter chaos” of last year’s cull and warned of a repeat in the second cull this summer. The cull supervisor says badger cullers pursued badgers with loaded weapons on both private and public land outside licensed areas. He even found himself on a golf course for an hour with a shooting contractor and said that it was ‘bonkers.’ He also said that a married contractor had collected large amounts of badger hair samples (used to estimate the population in an area) from one site but claimed it had come from different places so he could spend time with a woman he had met on the Internet. The monitor said that he was not the only one and that the results of the survey were completely unreliable.
Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that Welsh Bovine TB figures have fallen again. Wales has a policy of not culling badgers. Instead, it operates a programme of vaccination for badgers and annual cattle testing. The Welsh Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop identified the re-introduction of annual cattle testing as the cornerstone of Wales’ TB eradication programme, where focused bio-security measures are resulting in dramatic drops in TB in cattle. The Welsh government website includes news that the Welsh Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Rebecca Evans, recently wrote to you asking you to consider removing the current exemption for pre-movement testing for cattle tested every three to four years. Many Welsh Farmers have made it clear to the Deputy Minister that they are only interested in buying cattle from England that have been pre-movement tested. All herds in Wales are subject to an annual Bovine TB test
We need to focus more fully on bio-security measures and the development of modern cattle vaccines to deliver effective protection against TB for Farmers and batten down further on cattle testing and movements.
In a recent publication in the journal Nature, modelling by researchers from the University of Warwick demonstrates that the focus on badger control is misplaced and that control of bovine tuberculosis in cattle will only be achieved by focusing instead on cattle-based measures.
Minister, isn’t now the time to cancel the needless practice of culling a protected species? It is clearly open to accusations of being absurd, given the crushing scientific evidence against it.
A CRIMINAL investigation has begun into government marksmen involved in last year’s badger cull following concerns that they jeopardised public safety. Detectives are looking at one case where a man is claimed to have stalked a badger for an hour at South Herefordshire Golf Club near Upton Bishop while carrying a loaded rifle. Apparently the gold club was not even included in the culling area and permission had not been granted for any marksmen on its land.
Another allegation is that at least 10 marksmen illegally used night sights to stalk the animals.
News of the investigation comes weeks before the cull is due to restart following a pilot scheme last year to try to curtail the spread of bovine tuberculosis in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset. Gloucestershire police confirmed an investigation was launched following claims by a whistleblower to The Sunday Times this month.
Brief comments from the Rethink bTB reporter at Badger Trust's judicial review yesterday.
'Judge retires to decide if Defra can break promise on IEP In the High Court today Thursday 21 August Badger Trust challenged Defra’s plan to resume badger culling in the pilot areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire without any independent oversight or assessment - despite Defra promising (since 2011) that any future decision to roll out culling nationally with free shooting would be based on the IEP assessing this to be effective, humane and safe. After the IEP pronounced the 2013 pilot culls to be ineffective and inhumane, and of doubtful safety, Defra decided scrap the IEP for 2014 and make only its own internal assessment as a basis for deciding to roll out culling to 40 new areas nationally.
Judge Kenneth Parker heard arguments on both sides, and retired to consider his decision. If he decides that Badger Trust is right, this will not stop the culls from happening this year (unless Defra & the new minister have a sudden attack of conscience and science). But it will probably delay the start date while Defra puts an IEP in place. And if the same IEP members are used, it will ensure there is strict scrutiny of the results. If the judge decides that the Defra minister can break the promise of independent scrutiny, that would mean after the 2013 culls proved to inhumane and ineffective there was somehow no further need for independent scrutiny in 2014. Which is mad.
Defra’s barrister even argued that though the Defra minister promised independent expert assessment as the basis of any national rollout decision, she did not promise not to break this promise later (so, don’t trust anything Defra says, if you ever did). Why could the culling not be stopped completely? The law is loaded against Badger Trust and other civil society groups, because judges presume that government ministers are acting in the public interest. Proving that they are not is difficult. Where it is a matter of judgement or opinion, ministers have a lot of leeway. Defra ministers (Caroline Spelman, Owen Paterson and now Liz Truss) had the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, that culling badgers would help control TB in cattle, and that was enough.
A scientific figleaf for a political decision. Never mind that much more expert and experienced scientists have provided evidence that culling doesn’t work and can even make matters worse. Defra was on also in cahoots with the NFU, despite NFU representing only a minority of farmers.'
20 Aug 2014, 10:40 AM
Following a meeting with Avon and Somerset’s Silver Commander, Supt Kevin Instance and the the group, Somerset Against the Badger Cull,it has been confirmed that this time there will be no one from either the NFU or the cull companies in the control room when culling commences shortly in Somerset.
Anti-cull organisations claimed the presence of NFU staff and personnel from the cull companies in the police command and control centre last year was inappropriate. They alleged the farming organisation had a vested interest in making the cull appear successful and its presence alongside the police damaged public confidence in the cull.
Info from: www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Police-National-Farmers-8217-Union-arm-s-length/story-22762798-detail/story.html
18 Aug 2014, 12:07 PM
Recent figures have confirmed that Bovine TB incidents in Wales fell by almost a fifth in the past year, figure The number of cattle slaughtered as a result of the disease also dropped markedly while new incidents dropped to the lowest level in six years.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) statistics show new incidents of bTB in Wales fell by 18% in the 12-month period to May this year. They also show a 31% decline in the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales as a result of bTB on the previous year and the numbers for the period between February and May this year revealed that new incidents of the disease were at their lowest level since 2008.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture Rebecca Evans said: “Whilst we know that disease figures can fluctuate from month to month these latest statistics continue to indicate a downward trend for bTB in Wales and this is very encouraging news.
“Our comprehensive bTB eradication programme, which has now been in place for over five years, is based on solid evidence and includes annual testing of cattle, strict bio-security measures and movement control. “However we know that eradicating bTB requires hard work, sustained effort over many years and a high level of co-operation between Government and the industry."
The figures show there were 826 new incidents of bTB in Wales between June 2013 and May this year compared with 1,009 between June 2012 and May 2013.
The number of cattle slaughtered in Wales as a result of bTB in the year leading up to May this year was 5,936 – a fall of 31% compared to the 8,595 slaughtered in the preceding 12 months.
18 Aug 2014, 12:00 PM
Badger Cull Protest Set for the High Court
Badger cull protesters are to gather outside the High Court in London next week (Thursday 21st August) to draw attention to the Judicial Review between Badger Trust and DEFRA being heard inside. Judgement is unlikely to be given on the day but will be handed down at a later date.
The ‘Badger Army’ protest is the 25th supported by Care for the Wild and Badger Trust in just over a year, and will feature key speakers including broadcaster and naturalist Bill Oddie and leading anti-badger cull campaigner Dominic Dyer.
The Judicial Review will argue that DEFRA and Natural England have failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the planned culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014. The Trust contends such a Panel is needed to oversee the design of data collection, its analysis and interpretation. Without this, there can be no proper assessment of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation, something that would be needed before any lawful decision to continue with further culls around the country.
Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said: “DEFRA have done all they can to prevent this Judicial Review case going to the High Court and have failed. Their refusal to put in place any independent monitoring of the badger culls due to take place in Gloucestershire and Somerset over the next few months against the advice of the Independent Expert Panel they set up is a national disgrace.
“The caring compassionate British public will not remain silent, whilst poorly trained NFU contract gunmen move through our countryside at night shooting badgers with rifles and shotguns without any independent monitoring or scrutiny. We know from last year’s culls that many badgers were wounded and suffered long painful deaths in a disastrous operation, which proved a complete and utter failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.
“It’s timely and significant that the protest outside the High Court will be the 25th protest against the cull in just over a year. These protests have taken place all over the country, and have seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets to say that this badger cull is wrong. These people aren’t ‘crazy animal people’ as those who support the cull would like to think – they are normal folk who understand that this cull is a crime against an innocent animal, and they won’t stand for it. Whether or not the High Court decision goes our way, there is no doubt that these protests will continue until the cull stops.”
The Badger Trust legal challenge has received strong support from some members of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) set up by the Government to monitor the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the badger culls carried out in 2013. Commenting on the Judicial Review challenge, Ranald Munro, Chairman of the IEP has said:
“The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises. If this scientific advice is ignored then the data collected during the proposed 2014 culls will be insufficiently reliable for assessment of humaneness and effectiveness. This means that farmers, veterinarians and scientists intimately involved in controlling bovine TB will be denied the information necessary to allow them to assess whether the IEP’s recommended changes to the culling process have corrected the failings identified by the pilot culls.”
The Badger Trust challenge is being heard in the High Court, London, on Thursday 21st August. The Badger Army protest starts at 12 noon until 5pm, with speeches at 12.30pm.
For more information, see www.badgertrust.org.uk/events