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Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?

 Added by  Thomas (Guest)
 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?

Interesting Guardian blog by Damian Carrington (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/oct/05/badger-cull-tb-cattle?newsfeed=true). It relates to the recent figures that reveal a reduction in bTB breakdowns in England. He asks:
'Is a belated tightening of measures to stop bovine TB spreading between cattle starting to bear down on the disease in England? That's what the latest government data suggests, making the proposed badger cull even more nonsensical than ever.'
Back in 2008 Professor John Bourne ( Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB) stated (AVTRW looks at the science of TB Vet Rec. 2008 162: 571-572) made the following comment: 
‘I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, “fine John we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.
An article in the Guardian describes a catalogue of failures in how England's farmers prevent their cattle spreading TB between herds. These failures were uncovered by an official European Commission inspection. The Guardian says they undermine the case for the imminent cull of badgers.
Prof Graham Medley, at the University of Warwick, told the Guardian the only way to eradicate TB in cattle would be a return to the strict and effective controls in place 40 years ago. "There is no scientific underpinning for the proposed killing of badgers."
A landmark study in 2008 of badger culling as a way of controlling bovine TB concluded it could make "no meaningful contribution", with its leader, Prof John Bourne, telling the government: "Scientific findings indicate the rising incidence of disease can be reversed by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone."
Information from www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/04/farming-shortcomings-badger-cull-bovine-tb

Natural England has today (www.naturalengland.org.uk/about_us/news/2012/041012.aspx) issued a licence permitting the control of badgers in West Somerset for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Control operations can only commence once Natural England has formally confirmed with the Licensee the specific dates when these operations will take place, the persons authorised to carry them out, confirmation that the necessary funds are in place, and the permitted number of badgers that will be subject to control operations. These formal confirmations are expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
Landowners in the Forest of Dean district are encouraged to follow the council’s lead in refusing the cull of badgers on their land. This is the notice that appears on the Forest of Dean District Council's website www.fdean.gov.uk/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=7968&tt=graphic
As badger culling looms it is interesting to see more and more farmers coming out against culling. The latest is a farmer from Northumberland, John Wilson) who talks to the Independent (www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-cull-wont-solve-our-farming-problem-so-stop-blaming-the-badgers-8192416.html).
& nbsp;
It is such a good article we are reproducing it below.
'I’ve been a hill farmer for forty years so I know a thing or two about cattle. I also know quite a bit about badgers because near our farm in north west Northumberland we have several badger setts in the valley. Our badgers and the cows in this valley live happily side by side without incident and without a single case of bovine tuberculosis in cattle on farms in this area.'
'I have firsthand experience of bTB, I know the immense emotional and financial havoc that it brings to hard-working, hard-pressed farmers and I understand how desperate they are to see something done to make it go away. But for the government to stubbornly pursue a badger cull when all the scientific and conservation common sense tells us it simply won’t work, is ultimately not going to help farmers. And farmers themselves have got to come to terms with that inconvenient truth.'
'Jim Paice, the former DEFRA Minister said that doing nothing was not an option. Of course not, but doing the wrong thing is even worse. Culling badgers is very likely to spread bTb to previously uninfected areas. Badgers are timid creatures who are also socially mobile. The badgers on our land don’t just stick to their own setts, they move from sett to sett with a number of satellite setts in between. Badgers under attack will run beyond their territory and if that happens, we could end up with a far bigger bTb problem on our hands than ever before.'
'Killing badgers is also morally bankrupt because it’s diverting much-needed funds and energy away from tackling the fundamental root causes of the TB problem. For as long as this government is obsessed with culling badgers, it’s not focusing on measures to reduce TB on farms and that’s where we need to get to grips with it.'
'My own observation is that bTb hot-spots tend to be in areas where you have dairy farms with ever increasing intensification of cattle. Intensive farming methods are focused on increasing profit by increasing yield from ever more pressured animals who, inevitably, become more stressed and therefore more vulnerable to disease.'
'Intensification of dairy farming in particular, is a growing problem borne of market pressures. The dairy sector is already under enormous financial hardship, with farmers working long hours for decreasing returns. Their solution? Buy more cows and increase their milk production. It’s a terrible downwards spiral that leads to poor cattle welfare, low immunity and a disease disaster waiting to happen.'
'To truly tackle bTB and other diseases like mastitis, we need to detensify cattle farming and stop pushing animals to the very limit. That is precisely what the NFU should be telling farmers, not helping them on to the badger culling bandwaggon. But the NFU is little more than a self-serving bureaucracy more interested in its own survival. '
'We bought our current farm thirteen years ago and we’ve done an immense amount of work to enhance and encourage wildlife and rich biodiversity. We’ve created woodlands and habitats and in so doing, farmed using methods that are in harmony with nature. On our farm we run self-catering holiday cottages, embracing eco-tourism and sharing our passion for wildlife. Our visitors get up close and personal with nature, even having footage of our badgers and barn owls streamed live into every cottage. We are living proof that if you treat the natural world around you with respect and live in balance with nature, badgers and other wild animals are far from being the enemy, they are a wonderful delight to be treasured and protected. '
As the Government online e-petition against the cull reaches nearly 142,000 signatures the Badger Trust has, today, sent us a Press Release stating that the “Science-led  cull”  is falling apart.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Jan Rowe [1], one of the directors of Gloscon, the company organising the cull in Gloucestershire, has said that the cull may need to be extended beyond the original six-week period.
The Government and the farming industry attempt to justify the cull on the grounds that it is science led, says the Trust. Clearly it is anything but.  It is degenerating into a shambles. Lengthening the cull period would be yet another major departure from the criteria spelt out by the ISG (the Independent Scientific Group).
The ISG said that to be effective culling should be carried out simultaneously across the cull area. In the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) that provided their peer-reviewed conclusions, culling was carried out for a maximum of 12 days and then stopped.  The Government ignored those criteria and decided on six weeks. Now, apparently, there are attempts to justify a further extension.
The ISG’s research was based on a Government-led cull. The proposed cull will be farmer-led.
The ISG’s findings and conclusions were based on the killing of cage-trapped badgers. On the grounds of cost, the Government has proposed instead a completely untried culling method –“free-shooting” at night.
In yet another departure from carefully validated research the cull’s projected benefits—a claimed reduction in bTB incidence of from 12-16 per cent over nine years—assume, without any supporting research or scientific data, says the Badger Trust, that free shooting will be as effective as cage trapping.
With every passing week the Government’s claims that the cull is science led are shown up for what they are, says the Badger Trust—a sham.  The plans are unworkable, unscientific, could lead to an increase in bovine TB, and at best offer only minimal reductions over many years.
It’s time they were abandoned. The answer to bovine TB, as the ISG said, is the much more effective management of cattle: the way they are tested; the controls which are imposed to limit movements from herds with a poor TB history; and much improved disease controls (biosecurity) on farms.
Vaccination of badgers will make an important contribution. But the long-term solution has to be a cattle vaccine.
[1] Sunday Times 30-09-2012 Page 17. “Threats force farmer to drop badger cull”. Kevin Dowling.

Tewkesbury Borough councillors have decided against passing a motion at a meeting on Monday which would have backed the government scheme to cull badgers. Last Thursday, Forest of Dean District Council voted to ban any culling of badgers on land it controls.
Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset is due to vote later on the issue.
Info from BBC www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19784170
We have received an email from a farmer in Glos that refers to the current DEFRA Badger/Cattle bTB Transmission survey. This was commissioned by DEFRA in August 2012 and is a two-year scientific study to examine the interactions between cattle and badgers at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,136,449 - see Defra Science & Research Projects.
The farmer is extremely concerned about the amount of public opposition to the culling proposals and consequential bad PR for the farming sector. The farmer cannot understand why, just one month after the report was commissioned, the two 'trial' culls have been sanctioned.
'If the results of this survey, due in 2014, show that transmission of bTB between badger and cattle is the result of poor husbandry and bad bio-security, which is more than likely, then the decimation of Gloucestershire badgers will be even more indefensible.
Commissioning the survey is commendable and necessary but refusing to wait for the results is completely unscientific and an appalling waste of taxpayer's money.'
If the Government decisions are based on science then surely the decision on the badger cull should be deferred until this survey has concluded or the farming sector risks losing even more credibility in the eyes of the electorate?
Early day motion 509
Session: 2012-13
Date tabled: 12.09.2012
Primary sponsor: Galloway, George
Sponsors: Davidson, Ian Hancock, Mike Hemming, John Leech, John Riordan, Linda
That this House opposes the mass cull of badgers; urges the Environment Minister to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly by implementing a vaccination programme with increased levels of testing and improved bio-security as a more effective way to tackle bovine tuberculosis long-term; notes that vaccination is the more sustainable and humane solution which has already been shown to significantly reduce the potential transmission of tuberculosis and that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' own advisory body, Natural England, has said that it has little confidence in the cull delivering the predicted long-term benefits; and further urges the Minister to halt the imminent cull which could make the situation worse and lead to the badger population in some areas being entirely wiped out.

Excellent letter from a farmer published in the Independent that sums up the situation very well (www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters-badger-culling-is-emotive-but-debate-over-scientific-evidence-is-ignoring-established- facts-8182022.html)
www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters-badger-culling-is-emotive-but-debate-over-scientific-evidence-is-ignoring- established- facts-8182022.html
'We've allowed the facts about bovine TB to be buried by the furore surrounding the proposed badger cull and negative reporting on the part of farming bodies has painted a picture of an entire cattle industry brought to its knees by the effects of the disease. But this is misleading. Defra reports on its website that "11.5 per cent of herds were restricted in 2011". They could equally report the positive side, which is that 88.5 per cent of herds were not restricted in 2011. Only a small proportion of the national herd is affected by bovine TB.
The impact on an infected herd is not caused by the disease itself. The heartache is caused by the "test and cull" policy deployed by our government in response to an EU directive which demands eradication of bTB and simultaneously bans the use of cattle vaccine, thereby making it impossible to achieve the goal they set.
But rather than tackle the EU to allow cattle vaccination, ministers have sanctioned a mass badger-shoot to placate a minority of vociferous farmers who seem hellbent on decimating the badger population. The fact that a badger cull spells disaster in PR terms for the entire farming industry must have eluded them all'.
G E Purser (A badger-friendly farmer), Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
Councillors for Gloucestershire County Council, which owns a number of farms in the Glos area, one of the badger cull pilot areas, have expressed concerns about the dangers of shooting badgers at night and have ordered a review.
There were concerns that night-time shooting of badgers involving high velocity rifles had serious safety and policing issues. They voted for a full Council review of current policy which allows tenant farmers to take part in the Gloucestershire cull.
The committee also recommended that the Cabinet Member responsible for farms requests tenants taking part in the cull to carry out a risk assessment to re-assure the Council that the public would not be put at undue risk.
The Conservative-controlled Forest of Dean District Council has already voted against the cull and will not allow the shooting of badgers on any of the land they own. Their concerns were apparently sparked by a petition signed by 779 people in Gloucestershire in the last few weeks calling on the council to ban the cull on their land. The public outcry led to a heated discussion by a scrutiny committee.
The motion read: "The Forest of Dean District Council must make public safety and the care of our wildlife a priority and to this end this council must endeavour to make contact with all other land owners within its boundary to request that they refuse any culling of badgers on their land."
Information from www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9571942/Badger-cull-could-be-scuppered-by-health-and-safety.html
Grossly exaggerated statements in the media, by farmers who should know better, do nothing to help the debate. Devon farmer, Richard Haddock, said (article in This is Cornwall -http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Long-term-solution-vital-bring-bovine-TB-control/story-16979882-detail/story.html),
'setting aside the practical challenge of trapping every single badger (and there are millions of them)...'. There are not millions of badgers. Estimates very from 150,000 to 300,000. To put this into some perspective, there are around 11 million cats in the UK, including over 1 million feral/strays.
GL sent us an interesting graph/statistics (see attached) which shows the population growth of badgers and humans in the UK during the last 100 years. Domestic animals are included too.
Clearly the public are not happy with the badger cull trial proposals in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The online e-petition on the government site which asks the government to stop the planned cull stands at over 113,000 - reached in just 2 weeks. It is currently the most active petition on the site with 905 signatures in the last hour.
As the e-petition has now passed the threshold of 100 000 signatures, the Leader of the House of Commons should write to the Backbench Business Committee, who are responsible for the scheduling of debates on e-petitions, informing them that the petition has reached 100 000 signatures and it should then be debated in Parliament.
Recent story in This is Cornwall (http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Long-term-solution-vital-bring-bovine-TB-control/story-16979882-detail/story.html) includes a comment from a farmer who surely should know better or maybe he is being deliberately misleading? This sort of comment does nothing to help the debate.
Devon farmer, Richard Haddock, in writing about badger vaccination says ... 'Even setting aside the practical challenge of trapping every single badger (and there are millions of them)'.
Estimated numbers of badgers in the UK vary - figures of being 150,000 and 300,000 are generally quoted. There are certainly not millions. Maybe he is confusing the species with cats - which number 8 million!
According to today's Independent Lord Krebs, says the plan to cull badgers is 'crazy'. How odd because the Government's culling plans are allegedly based on the Krebs' report! He has said that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' plan was misguided because they could have no way of knowing the badger population in the trial areas:
"I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme that may deliver very small advantage," he said.
We want to know how the NFU can keep implying that farmers want this cull? We don't. We are very worried about the consequences, do not think it is worth the money and with the massive and high profile opposition there is obviously something fundamentally wrong with the proposals. We are not the only farmers concerned and the pressure NFU is using is not acceptable. Let's not forget many are not even NFU members so how can NFU claim most of us want this cull. They have not even balloted their members on such an important issue that could have such dire consequences.
Chris Chapman suggests (on WARMWELL site - http://warmwell.com/jan11ruth.html) that:
"...There is much need for an unbiased programme to air all the science, the pros and cons of vaccination, the current position with the EU, the decimation of the cattle industry, the history of the Badger Act and badger baiting, the arguments put up by the Badger Trust etc. I’m amazed that it hasn’t been done."
What a good idea!
Report today by BBC says Lord Krebbs, the scientist who carried out the study has told BBC News that these pilot studies make no sense.
'Lord Krebs, who is one of the government's most respected scientific advisers, said that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is administering the scheme, has no way of knowing how many badgers there are in the area, so will not know when they've killed 70% of the badgers in the area.
"I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme that may deliver very small advantage, may deliver none. And it's very hard to see how Defra are going to collect the crucial data to assess whether it's worth going ahead with free shooting at all," he said.
'But the scientist who carried out the study has told BBC News that these pilot studies make no sense.
Lord Krebs, who is one of the government's most respected scientific advisers, said that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is administering the scheme, has no way of knowing how many badgers there are in the area, so will not know when they've killed 70% of the badgers in the area.
"I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme that may deliver very small advantage, may deliver none. And it's very hard to see how Defra are going to collect the crucial data to assess whether it's worth going ahead with free shooting at all," he said.
Defra has said that it would be using data from previous studies and would commission its own research to estimate badger numbers.
There are several areas of concern in this press release. If the information is accurate, are some farmers being coerced into doing something they would prefer not to do? This is not the first time we have heard of the heavy handed approach of the NFU. Several different farmers expressed concern regarding the NFU public meetings for farmers, with some making formal complaints.
The coalition passed its formal death sentence on tens if not hundreds of thousands of badgers today (Sept 17th) just a week after the Trust’s online video featuring Sir David Attenborough [1] provoked an overwhelming and still growing public response.
Natural England has granted a licence to kill [2] to a specially-formed company, Gloscon Ltd, representing farming and land management interests in the secret West Gloucestershire pilot area. The actual killing area must be at least 70 per cent of that, which would be more than 10 miles by 10 miles
The company will have to prove that almost three quarters of the likely 1,000-plus badgers had been killed, although given the lack of accurate badger population data it is not clear how this will be possible. Natural England is continuing to assess a separate licence application relating to the West Somerset pilot area and will look to issue the licence as soon as possible after it is satisfied that the application has met the criteria in the bTB policy guidance.
In addition to saying they are deeply disheartened by the news of the cull going ahead, Sir David Attenborough and Simon King OBE are also saddened at the Government’s refusal to pursue alternatives to culling badgers. They point out that wildlife filmmakers in this country have spent the last six decades trying to inspire and promote understanding and respect for wildlife both nationally and internationally. They ask: “How can we now expect any other nation, especially a poor developing country, to conserve its wildlife whenever there is a conflict with short-term economic and political interests?”
A Defra spokesman said: “We will continue to work with the farming industry so badger control in two pilot areas can start as soon as is practical. No one wants to cull badgers but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers."
At the same time a leaked letter from Gloscon Ltd [3] is imploring its farmer members to send their pledged contributions by the end of this week otherwise it would not be able to go ahead under the terms of reference. Contrary to the rules on witness statements, and before there have even been any attempts at disrupting a cull, the letter orders farmers to sign a 'pre-prepared witness statement' for the police. The Badger Trust emphasises that only legal means of protest are acceptable and intimidation will be counterproductive whatever its legality.
Sir David said in the video (see www.justdosomething.org.uk) that the Coalition’s own advisers had found culling was not a viable scientific option and could make matters worse.. Now, the Badger Trust fears some people could be led to assume that killing badgers is generally permissible. It is not. Killing badgers remains a criminal offence unless by licence for prescribed purposes.
The facts remain that according to DEFRA's own Impact Assessment culling will cost more than it could ever save, and that is before the policing costs or loss of revenue for businesses in the area are properly factored in. It will spread the disease as badgers flee the cull zones into surrounding farmland. Badger Trust is being contacted by worried farmers who fear breakdowns on their land as a result of the culls.
Further, it will be impossible to evaluate the results of the cull, and any marginal reduction in bTB will not be calculable for almost a decade. Given the hardship imposed on farmers through this cull, they are unlikely to wait this long for results. Today, in response to a Parliamentary Question from MP Mary Creagh, DEFRA conceded that at least 50% of cattle herd breakdowns are caused by cattle to cattle contact. Badger Trust continues to advocate vaccination and better cattle control measures.
Vice Chairman of the Trust, Patricia Hayden, said: "Sir David is among high-profile celebrities, such as well-respected naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, and concerned members of the public like the enterprising 15-year old from the Dorset/Somerset border who has set up her own website against the cull http://killthecull.weebly.com. Leading scientists, academics and international conservation organisations support us and we’re confident that public support against the badger cull will only increase both nationally and internationally in the days to come”.
[1] www.justdosomething.org.uk
[2] http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/about_us/news/2012/170912.aspx
[3] http://badger-killers.co.uk/gloscon-want-payment-this-week-for-the-cull/
Press Release from the Bager Trust dated 13th September 2012.
Bovine TB and science: "law hasn't kept pace"— Badger Trust
Badger Trust welcomes the Court of Appeal’s clarification of the law. It is disappointed by the outcome, which shows that the legislation in this area has not kept pace with developments in the understanding of how TB works; the spread of disease as a result of culling; badger social behaviour; or TB vaccination possibilities.
Importantly, the Court of Appeal confirmed that it was not making any decision on whether culling could work or not: the science remains the same. DEFRA’s culling proposals do not make sense from a scientific, economic, ethical, or public safety point of view. (For a summary of the issues, see Badger Trust’s video with David Attenborough and other leaders in the field.)
Badger Trust had argued that licences to cull could not be granted under section 10(2)(a) Protection of Badgers Act 1992 “to prevent the spread of disease” given that according to DEFRA’s own evidence culling will spread the disease onto land adjoining and surrounding the cull zones, each the size of the Isle of Wight. (Indeed, since the court rejected the appeal, Badger Trust has had calls from worried farmers in and around the cull zones, who fear they will now have new TB breakdowns as a result of culling getting the green light.)
The Badger Trust argued that if DEFRA had to proceed with culling, the correct legal powers lay under the Animal Health Act 1981, which provided for mass culls of wildlife to reduce the incidence of bovine TB if certain conditions were met. The court rejected that argument because it would leave the Government in a position whereby shooters were committing a criminal offence under section 1 Protection of Badgers Act. The Trust argued that there was a way around this but the court rejected their suggestion. Thus, the appeal was rejected.
Badger Trust fears that certain people will be led to assume that killing badgers is generally permissible. It is not. Killing badgers remains a criminal offence unless by licence for prescribed purposes.
The way is now open for the Coalition to preside over the killing of what Natural England have estimated could be 130,000 badgers over four years, which flies in the face of established science. The last ten-year government cull found that killing badgers could make no meaningful contribution to tackling bTB, may make the situation worse, and that the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone are sufficient [1]. These findings and many others over 40 years remain completely unaffected by the decision of the Appeal Court.
The Badger Trust will continue to pursue all legal means to stop culling. It will closely study any licences issued by Natural England. It will also continue with its modern, science-based vaccination service to meet the rising demand from farmers and press for impediments to the ultimate solution of cattle vaccination to be removed. Wales has abandoned culling in favour of vaccination, Scotland is officially TB free and Northern Ireland is conducting research into an eradication programme.
The Badger Trust is following with interest a current complaint against culling under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats to which the UK is a signatory.
David Williams, Chairman, said: "The Badger Trust could do no other than pursue every legal opportunity to stop this scientifically, economically and ethically unjustified assault on our wildlife. The case for culling is riddled with half-truths such as failing to admit that ten times as many cattle are killed prematurely each year for diseases other than bovine TB.
Badger Trust’s wide-ranging work in other directions will continue to develop. It includes:
• maintaining a sustained and informed presence in government circles and the media in the interests of badgers,
• active involvement in Operation Meles, the multi-agency partnership targeting criminals who torture badgers, notoriously a scourge in the north of England,
• ensuring that building developments do not infringe the badgers’ welfare,
• advising and helping householders to understand and enjoy visits from badgers.
[1] http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf (See page 5).
According to a report on BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19563661) the Badger Trust has lost its Court of Appeal challenge to government proposals to kill thousands of wild badgers in England.
Today is the Badger Trust's High Court appeal which could decide the fate of thousands of badgers currently facing slaughter.
The High Court appeal is against Mr Justice Ouseley 's decision in July to upheld government proposals for two pilot culls to tackle tuberculosis in cattle: one in West Gloucestershire and the other in West Somerset.
The controversial scheme could eventually lead to culling in up to 10 areas per year. England could see a staggering 40,000 badgers being "pointlessly killed" over the next four years. Most of these creatures will be healthy. They will be killed needlessly, just as thousands of cattle are.
Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Sullivan are expected to reserve their decision at the end of the estimated half-day appeal hearing.
A four-year programme to vaccinate Somerset badgers against bovine TB (bTB) has begun. The project is part of a nationwide initiative by badger groups to offer vaccination opportunities to farmers and landowners.
Areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire are designated as badger killing areas, pending an Appeal Court hearing next month, and Adrian Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group (SBG) said: “Our members are delighted to be working alongside farmers. On behalf of the badgers and farmers we want to take advantage of the recently licensed vaccine to help constructively with the battle against bTB. “During field trials the vaccine has been proved to be effective in at least 74% of badgers vaccinated. It is the modern, scientific way to conquer the disease and –unlike culling--does not carry the risk of causing infection to spread”.
SBG are carrying out the work in association with Secret World Wildlife Rescue of Highbridge, Somerset, supported by the Badger Trust and Network for Animals. Licensed members and volunteers place peanuts in open cage traps for several nights to familiarise the badgers with the traps before setting the catches which close the traps as badgers enter. Within hours, at first light, the trapped badgers are given a health and condition check, vaccinated, marked and released without harm. Farms will be revisited at regular intervals to increase the proportion of badgers vaccinated.
Badgers are highly territorial. Research has shown that badgers which survive a cull wander much more widely, increasing the possibility of disease spread. The phenomena is known as perturbation. Vaccination has no such disadvantage. The badgers remain in their home ranges, preventing others from moving in from neighbouring areas.
Perturbation with its worsening of disease was so marked in the £50million Randomised Badger Culling Trials that in 2003 the then government suspended localised (“reactive”) killing of badgers.
Vaccination by licensed members of badger groups began last autumn coordinated by Trust director Simon Boulter. Specially-trained leaders and volunteers established procedures in the field monitored and approved by senior Defra veterinary staff. Badgers on farms in Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire have already been vaccinated by badger group members.
The Badger Trust says perturbation is likely to follow the proposed “free shooting” of badgers.

Press release from badger Trust dated 28 August 2012.
Natural England, acting for Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs called for four areas to be singled out in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire for killing badgers and two have been chosen.
The Badger Trust deplores the absence of any further details from Defra about this pilot scheme where riflemen are preparing to shoot free running badgers at night – if they can. They would have to prove they had killed seven out of every ten badgers without having any clear idea of how many there would be to start with. Mrs Spelman said the pilot would be to “confirm our assumptions about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety . . “. She did not say “test our assumptions”. Looking for confirmation indicates a presumption rather than an assumption.
If they killed any fewer the expected benefits (marginal in the long term) would be lost and the serious risk of perturbation and further infection, discovered only in 2003, [1] would be increased. Worse, killing more than the target number risks local extinction, contravening the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. [2].
In publishing guidance to shooters on how to shoot a badger Ministers happen to have demonstrated the serious and particular hazards to the large, strong badger [3]. Dave Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “If a government can behave like this there is something seriously wrong with the law. In the case of badgers legal protection seems to be acceptable only until it collides with commercial interests and servile politicians”.
These flaws evident in the pilot cull proposals--and the "spin" accompanying the highly disputed plan--will be spelt out at the meeting, and speakers will also touch on the negative effects of culling to farmers and the near impossibility of meeting some of the licensing criteria--for example, measuring the percentage of badgers killed and, unless monitoring arrangements are substantial and continuing over the six weeks, the humaneness of the shooting.
[1] “. . . localized badger culling not only fails to control but also seems to increase TB incidence in cattle.” (C. A. Donnelly et al. Nature 426, 834–837; 2003). http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/682
[2] Letter to Nature [Signed] Christl A. Donnelly MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Imperial College London, London, UK. c.donnelly@imperial.ac.uk Rosie Woodroffe Institute of Zoology, Regent’s Park, London, UK. Competing financial interests declared; see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7400/full/485582a.html (author information).
[3] Drawings from Guidance to Natural England – Shooting Strategy. http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13716-shooting-guidance.pdf

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