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?
24 May 2012, 1:32 PM
Press Release dated 22/5/12 from Badger Trust saying:
Up to a third of infected cattle could be missed by the standard test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) because a liver parasite may be hampering eradication of the disease, research suggests. Dairy cattle carrying both TB and the 3-cm fluke Fasciola hepatica were less likely to reveal the infection, but the fluke has been increasing in the UK .
Prof Diana Williams of Liverpool University said the research team had been surprised to find that where there was more fluke there was less evidence of disease. Prof Williams also said fluke had become more common in the UK over the last 15 years - the very period that has seen a threefold increase in the number of cattle herds where bTB was present. She added that flukes could be thriving partly because of climate change and because of on-farm schemes that encouraged farmers to maintain ponds, lakes and marshes to support wildlife.
This carries forward work published in May last year by the Veterinary Sciences Division of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland . One of their conclusions was that “co-infection with parasites, most notably liver fluke, and also the mycobacterial Johne’s disease, influenced the diagnostic sensitivity of both the comparative skin test and the gamma interferon test”.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The cattle industry should not only welcome these findings but actively follow them up, particularly on behalf of farm businesses that endure persistent bTB breakdowns. For decades badgers have been blamed, now this research clearly shows how infection could stay undetected in a herd. Instead of spending its money on trying to kill badgers the industry should be pressing for all efforts to be made to improve testing and remove the danger of leaving up to one third of a herd still infected.
“Until the science is clear, we should not be making the badger a scapegoat. Remember DDT, myxomatosis and Thalidomide. We thought we knew that these were scientific certainties but they were disastrous. We should be wary for the future”.
A report by This is Somerset (www.bovinetb.co.uk/forum_topic.php?thread_id=8&page=1) refers to new research which could pour cold water on Government claims linking badgers with the spread of bovine TB. The research, which comes from the Government’s own scientists, suggests that rather than the badgers spreading the disease, cows could be carrying TB for years without detection, spreading it to other members of their herds.
The warning comes in two reports from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Northern Ireland, a leading research centre. One, already published, warns the tests used for TB often produce negative results if cattle are co-infected with liver flukes. This is because the flukes secrete hormones that suppress the immune response on which the TB test depends.
18 May 2012, 7:21 PM
Live web debate at Farmers Guardian website today (www.farmersguardian.com), typically concentrating on the badger with very little mention of any of the other issues.
Of particular note were the pertinent comments by Michael Ritchie, Rethink bTB Press Officer;
'Some of us are left with the impression that obsessive concentration on badgers by unions and government is a decoy from the real issues. Why are the farming unions not demanding that EU law (which takes precedence over ours) banning cattle vaccination against BTB be repealed immediately, clearing the way for use of the BCG cattle vaccine and the DIVA test as soon as they are licensed? Even a voluntary scheme would reduce the number of cattle seized from farmers, without any adverse effects. Ask the Ethiopians who are already using the cattle BCG vaccine as they cannot afford, economically or politically, to slaughter cattle unnecessarily.'
And later he commented; ''Nick Fenwick is missing the point in his eagerness to stick to badgers. BCG will not be licenced unless and until effective. There is no reason the EU should not change the law in reciognition of this to allow the use of licensed vaccines. It can be used alongside any other policy and therefore cannot have an adverse effect.'
There was a rather apathetic response to this from Cartl Padgett, President of the British Veterinary Association, (a former president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association and former Chairman of Trustees of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation.), who said;
'... we are talking about it and trying to make those changes (and hopefully they will be based on sound, scientific reasoning). But when the majority of the EU countries don't have a problem they don't know why they should support the UK bovine market.'
Yes, we agree, all they do is talk - about badgers mainly!
10 May 2012, 3:04 PM
According to a report in the Scotland Herald, (www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/tb-outbreak-not-caused-by-wildlife.17548874 the scientists have ruled out wildlife being behind the recent outbreak of bovine TB in Scotland that led to the slaughter of a herd of cattle (60 animals). It is said to be one of the worst outbreaks in Scotland in recent years.
Scottish Government officials are still trying to pin down what caused the disease to appear on the farm at Ballencrieff, Bathgate, West Lothian. Investigations are continuing.
Discounting a possibility the infection came from wildlife means there will be no plans to cull badgers 'or other potential carriers of the disease' (we wonder what this means?).
However, the appearance of the disease does not mean Scotland will lose its TB-free status as it is an isolated case which does not affect wider stocks.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "Our investigations are still on ongoing. We have so far ruled out the possibility that it came from wildlife, while there have been no positive tests on cattle on neighbouring fields."
29 Apr 2012, 1:15 PM
I see that Stroud District Council have voted to ban any badger culling on their land and are signing up to the Stroud 100 initiative. This initiative is getting land owners in Stroud to sign up to confirm they will be refusing any badger culling on their land. To date well over 100 landowners have signed up. http://stroud100.blogspot.co.uk
26 Apr 2012, 9:07 AM
Interesting farm diary at www.smallholderseries.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=344&Itemid=27 expressing the concerns and issues that must face many farmers in the two cull areas. It is a well written piece, obviously done by an intelligent person who has researched all the facts and concluded that badger vaccination is a better way forward. The following extracts are of particular interest.
'The announcement by Defra in January this year of the two pilot areas in which landowners and farmers may apply for licences to cull badgers brought the subject of badgers back to me in clear, sharp focus. We appear to be slap-bang in the middle of one of the two areas (West Gloucestershire, the other is in West Somerset) – although the precise locations are still under wraps. It is, however, likely to affect Green Farm directly, as we have a large, active badger sett at the end of our Orchard, set into a bank against an old hedgerow. We believe our sett is healthy, as our neighbour has kept cattle in the adjoining field for some years and has never had any reactors to the regular testing for mycobacterium bovis. This set me thinking about how a cull would work … what if some landowners denied access to their land? What about ‘perturbation – if ‘our’ resident sett is culled, diseased badgers may move in? Are there effective alternatives to culling?'
't’s perhaps worth stating the obvious at this point: the subject of Bovine TB and badgers is both highly complex and very sensitive. It’s estimated that it will cost taxpayers around one billion pounds over the next 10 years if not effectively dealt with. More painfully for farmers, the disease forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle during 2010 alone. So it is a serious subject for ALL concerned, and I have always stated that, if I felt a badger cull would solve the problem, I would support it.'
'In early March, we had ‘our’ badger sett and surrounding fields surveyed, for badger activity as well as the feasibility of carrying out a vaccination programme. This in itself was an interesting exercise as the ‘vaccination team’ are very knowledgeable about the secret life of badgers, and I learnt more that day than I could have from any TV wildlife programme! During the survey the team mapped setts, runs, latrines, foraging signs and interestingly, a couch (a grass nest) in an old drainage pipe! There was evidence of plenty of badger activity, and well-used latrines. Factors affecting the practicalities of trapping and vaccinating badgers were recorded.'
'Their recommendation is to vaccinate badgers (through intramuscular injection) annually for 5 years – roughly the lifespan of a badger, to ensure that all badgers of all ages are treated, which will increase the level of immunity within the badger group.'
'Essentially, the landowner is responsible for the cost, which can only be calculated following a survey. It is not a cheap option, and the farmer must be prepared to complete the full 5 years for it to be worthwhile. There is Defra funding – the Badger Vaccination Fund for England, up to 50% of the cost of the first year’s vaccination for land within the pilot badger cull areas or a surrounding 2km ‘ring’. Before commencing a vaccination programme, the farmer must obtain a license from Natural England – we’re in the process of applying for our licence, and will start the programme this year.'
The vaccination is being undertaken by Brock Vaccination.
fera (The Food and Environment Research Agency) - Badger Vaccine Deployment Project: www.fera.defra.gov.uk/wildlife/ecologyManagement/bvdp/
25 Apr 2012, 7:05 PM
We have been sent this link http://www.save-me.org.uk/news/badger/article/brian_mays_report_on_badger_judicial_review_2_-_july_2010 with particular reference to the table that appears down from the text. This would seem to reveal that compulsory, regular testing controlled bTB in the 70's and '80's but with the relaxing of testing because of BSE and Foot & Mouth it rose significantly in the 90's to current date. Oddly the first infected badger was found in the early 70's so one wonders why there is so much emphasis on the badger?
20 Apr 2012, 7:28 PM
Pembrokeshire Against the Cull have commented that 'the court’s decision times with DEFRA’s publication of the latest statistics on bovine TB. Despite the doomsday picture painted by DEFRA in the run up to the decision to cull in December 2011, the (belatedly published) statistics point to a slight decline in bovine TB -without a single badger being killed. Perhaps, more rigorous cattle testing and restrictions on infected cattle’s movement is having the positive effect predicted by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) which concluded that culling would not work'.
20 Apr 2012, 6:51 PM
We have been sent the following link www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/glossop-urges-wales-to-unite-behind-tb-strategy/46394.article which relates to the badger vaccination proposals for Wales.
Our attention has been drawn to the following extract:
'The Welsh Government has no legal powers to farmers to allow vaccination on their land. Dr Glossop said some farmers in the area had made it clear they no longer wanted to attend meetings or participate in the policy.'
This seems odd bearing in mind the previous administration were able to give themselves power to enter anyone's land to shoot badgers!
20 Apr 2012, 6:46 PM
The Badger Trust has been given permission to challenge, in the High Court, DEFRA’S decision to permit badgers to be culled in two areas of The case is likely to be heard at the High Court, London, in June.
The Badger Trust lodged its claim in the High Court at the end of February. It is asking the court to overturn the decision to allow pilot culls to take place in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset this autumn on three grounds:
· That the culls will not meet the strict legal test of ‘preventing the spread of disease’ in the licensed areas and may actually spread bovine TB.
· That Defra’s cost impact assessment is flawed as it does not allow for the possibility that the ‘much more costly’ cage trapping could be the only culling method available, if free shooting is outlawed.
· That Natural England’s guidance as the licensing authority is invalid as killing badgers is not one of its original functions.
The Badger Trust has said that in granting permission, the judge observed that ‘arguably Defra’s evidence shows that the proposed cull may in fact make matters worse and spread bovine TB’.
Badger Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP said “We are pleased that the court has given the Badger Trust’s challenge the green light on all three grounds. The badger cull as proposed would make matters worse at great cost to farmers, badgers and rural communities.”
12 Apr 2012, 6:48 PM
For those of you who want more information on the recent Wales' proposal to vaccinate, rather than cull badgers, a questions and answers paper is available from the Welsh Assembly at: www.bovinetb.info/docs/wales-bovine-tb-eradication-programme-questions-and-answers-04apr2012.pd
5 Apr 2012, 6:06 PM
MG has sent us this link www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Slaughter-badgers-pointless/story-15694939-detail/story.html which explains why the slaughter of badgers is pointless. Some interesting information in this one and the source seems reliable. 'And in fact Old Brock cannot possibly be the main problem, since after 40 years' research, neither Prof Bourne and the ISG, nor anyone else, has realistically shown how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung infection. Cattle TB is almost 100% a lung infection via breathed in sputum droplets ... and prolonged contact over-wintering in barns is needed to achieve this. A badger popping into a barn for a drink and snack of cattle nuts won't work! And there have been far too few superexcretor badgers which might pose a risk to other badgers or cows: just 166 out of eleven million badgers culled by the ISG. And in the classic Woodchester study, over 14 years there were just l7 among the 350 badger population in 9 sq km, so no wonder there was no spread between badger clans, very little within them (Krebs report, p48), and no cattle breakdowns due to them either.'
31 Mar 2012, 8:07 PM
'Analysis, Badgers and Bovine, Tuberculosis: The Relationship Between Law, Policy and Science, Badger Trust v Welsh Ministers' by Patrick Bishop  (http://jel.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/1/145.abstract)
Abstract The UK Court of Appeal, in Badger Trust v Welsh Ministers, was called upon to review the legality of a proposed policy of badger culling in Wales. The reasoning of the Court will be evaluated as a means of exploring the relationship between law, policy and science. In particular, the extent to which science is able to define and confine the parameters of available policy options will be considered in light of the Animal Health Act 1981, section 21. Where legislation implicitly creates a requirement to produce affirmative scientific evidence as a condition precedent of administrative action, then science is indeed able to curtail political choice. However, it will be argued that the ability of science to operate in this manner is undermined, first, by the very nature of scientific discourse, where evidence is frequently contested and open to interpretation, and second, by the Court's traditional deference to administrative discretion in cases of a technical nature.
30 Mar 2012, 5:47 PM
One farmer has told us their dealings with the NFU ground to a halt when the NFU were asked if they had a private ballot of their members to establish support for a badger cull and what percentage of their membership voted in favour.
'We believe their silence means they have not balloted their members other than possibly asking for show of hands at regional public meeting which, given the tribal nature of the farming community, could not be relied on as a reflection of true feelings.'
We wonder if the NFU have contravened Union practice by implying that the majority of their members (referred to them as 'farmers' as if every farmer in the land is an NFU member!) favours a badger cull without holding an official ballot to find out?
30 Mar 2012, 5:43 PM
Reading a recent article in the Farmers Guardian (www.farmersguardian.com/home/livestock/nfu-to-underwrite-cage-trapping-pilot-badger-cull-cost/45888.article#.T3L4TO0vHWo. twitter) it seems the NFU is struggling to get enough farmers to agree to badger culling on their land. This is hardly surprising when one considers the cost, legal structure of the agreements, public opposition to culling of wildlife, possible risks from activists, ... and there is no certainty it will work. The NFU is apparently struggling to get farmers to farmers to 'sign weighty legal documents and management agreements'.
According to the Farmers Guardian the company which will be responsible for the badger culling in West Gloucestershire has been formed and so far farmers representing 45 per cent of the land have signed up. The company in West Somerset is due to be incorporated. The intention is to submit licence applications to Natural England in around ‘six to eight weeks’.
26 Mar 2012, 2:23 PM
For more on the Bow Group think tank www.bowgroup.org/news/bow-group-urges-government-scrap-badger-cull-plans
26 Mar 2012, 2:01 PM
Following on from the recent decision in Wales to vaccinate, rather than cull badgers, an interesting piece reported in the Guardian today (also in Farmers Weekly). www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/mar/26/badger-cull-bovine-tb-cattle-vaccination?newsfeed=true
"The government's planned cull of badgers is impractical, according to an influential Conservative thinktank, and should be scrapped in favour of vaccination to help curb the bovine TB infection afflicting cattle".
"The Bow Group paper exposes for the first time divisions in the Tory party over the nocturnal shooting of badgers in bovine TB hotspots and concludes that the scientific evidence favours vaccination over a cull, which it said would be ineffective and expensive".
The Bow Group are in favour of vaccinating rather than culling badgers.
Interestingly the new vice president, Adam Quinney, of the NFU has teamed up with the Badger Trust to vaccinate badgers on his land after his cattle contracted bovine TB.
"Now some Conservatives are pondering the political cost of a cull after the Bow Group found that 81% of people were opposed to it."
Richard Mabey, research secretary of the Bow Group, said: "Market research shows that the issue will be costly for the Conservatives in political terms, not least in the marginal seats in which the culling trials are to be held. Vaccination is best for badgers and best for the taxpayer: a shift in focus from culling to vaccination is now essential."
"But the Bow Group paper warned that Defra's estimates of the cost of a cull appear 'conservative' and policing costs of £500,000 per area per year could increase. The paper also pointed out that monitoring the requirement that farmers cull 70% of the badger population inside the cull zone was uncosted."
"It recommended tackling the disease with a combination of an injectable vaccine and improved biosecurity on farms, with farmers' compensation linked to fulfilment of biosecurity best practice. One scientific trial of the vaccine found it reduced positive TB in badgers by almost 74% but any subsequent reduction in the disease among cattle has not yet been tested".
Press Release from Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, received today.
Vaccination is the right way forward.
Pro-vaccination group, Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, (PAC) are delighted the Welsh Government have decided to reject Badger Culling and implement a strategy based on vaccination of badgers as part of its plan to obtain TB free status for Wales. It is particularly encouraging that the Minister is going to start the vaccination programme without delay this year. We are sure that there will be much relief, especially from those worried about the potential impact on tourism from culling, and cross-community support for this approach within the Intensive Action Area.
Celia Thomas chair of PAC said “We are very pleased that the Minister John Griffiths has taken the brave decision to change course and use badger vaccination to address any potential risks posed by Badgers in the spread of Bovine tb. We would urge him to improve and enforce the current cattle controls, in particular those that reduce opportunities for cross infection in cattle such as isolation and rapid removal of TB Reactors, in all Welsh Bovine tb hotspots.
Michael Griffiths said “Cattle Vaccination is the only long term strategy and we would ask The Minister to press the UK Government to pursue this option with the utmost urgency. We know that DEFRA*1 will, in the coming months, begin to discuss with farmers, vets and other interested parties how the cattle vaccine and DIVA test can be used in the field and the likely implications on different types of farm business.”
Pembrokeshire against the Cull is a group of landowners, farmers and residents living in the cull and surrounding areas. We take bovine TB very seriously, particularly its impact on our local community. We have significant scientific and other relevant experience within our group and are committed to peacefully and legally opposing the culling of badgers. We support a programme of cattle control measures, badger and cattle vaccination to help win the battle against Bovine TB.
Email from JK today saying that if you were listening live to the statement by John Griffiths today, Elin Jones, one of the AMs and the person previously pushing for a cull of badgers, essentially said that she would support farmers if they wanted to kill badgers themselves: something along the line that she would support them if they take measures into their own hands.
Surely this is not a satisfactory response and should such a person be in a position of power? We hope that formal complaints will be made and action outside the law will not be tolerated.
20 Mar 2012, 6:11 PM
John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development in the Welsh Government announced this afternoon that:-
"After careful consideration I have decide to pursue a badger vaccination programme.....I have asked my Chief Veterinary Officer to design the project to begin in the Intensive Action Area this summer and continue for five years. I have also asked her to consider other geographical areas where vaccination could also contribute to TB eradication ...
I have noted the advice on the potential benefits that might be obtained from vaccination or culling. My conclusion is that I am not at present satisfied that a cull of badgers would be necessary to bring about a substantial reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle in which case I cannot authorise a cull under the Animal Health Act 1981.
Rethink BTB, the research group which last year highlighted serious failings in current Bovine TB policy and cattle test accuracy, has welcomed today’s statement by John Griffiths, the Welsh Government Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development.
Badger vaccination may help, and importantly avoids the serious risk inherent in badger culling of further spreading disease.
However the main issue has again been missed. Test and slaughter of cattle is a primitive approach to disease control, made even more ineffective by the inaccurate nature of the tests used. Any long term and effective solution must include cattle vaccination.
The cattle vaccine, BCG, has been used on humans for decades. If the political will existed, use on cattle would have been licensed years ago. Defra admit that recent research indicates a protective effect between 56% and 68%. This vastly outperforms any other measure proposed including badger culling.(1)
Rethink BTB spokesman Michael Ritchie, said that: “It is not enough that the UK Government is gently “asking” the EU for permission to vaccinate cattle against BTB. They must demand it, or simply declare that we will vaccinate cattle anyway. Tens of thousands of cattle are being slaughtered unnecessarily every year so that we comply with outdated EU laws”.
Notes: Copies of the second edition of the Rethink BTB report are available for download free of charge from www.rethinkbtb.org/rethink_documents/BTB_rethink_2nd_edition.pdf
The report proposes that Bovine TB should be handled like any other animal disease, and so farmers should be free to choose the most suitable means of control for their farm. The highest priority must be licensing of the cattle vaccine and removing European legal barriers to its use.
I see the Somerset County Gazette states the estimated value of damage caused is £100,000! Also in a report in the same paper on 16 February we are told there was an arson attack on a unoccupied chalet in Cleeve Park, Chapel Cleeve (same area as the farm - is this being blamed on the cull proposals too?
4 Mar 2012, 6:09 PM
The cull proposals are starting to be blamed for several incidents in the two cull areas (Gloucestershire and Somerset). Whether these incidents are as a result of the plans to cull or not we may never know but it is clear that the threat of such action is causing yet more stress for farmers.
Whilst the HQs of an NFU building in Glos has been covered in graffiti, a more serious incident occurred in Somerset. According to Farmers Weekly a dairy farmer in Old Cleeve, Somerset (one of the proposed pilot cull areas) has suffered a string of attacks against his business, which began after he publicly backed the pilot badger culls. The farm has had two suspected arson attacks, resulting in around £60,000 worth of damage.
Mr Thomas, whose herd tested positive for bovine tuberculosis for the first time last month, made it clear that he supported the badger cull when he was interviewed by his local paper recently. Since then the farm has had two fires and milk is believed to have been contaminated. The first blaze broke out at around 3am on 1 February in a shed where 50 calves were being kept. Mr Thomas and his wife Marie smelt burning and rang 999. They were able to get all the calves out of the shed unharmed before trying to extinguish the fire with buckets of water.
"It was very frightening. Glass was shattering and the roof was falling in while we were getting the calves out," Mrs Thomas said. Firefighters put out the fires but powdered milk, costing £1,400, was destroyed and there was serious damage to the roof. A week later, on 8 February, a sample taken at the dairy detected that the milk had been contaminated. Tests are ongoing to determine the source of the contamination.
"At first we thought the fire had been an accident, but I am concerned that this may be part of an organised attack," Mr Thomas said. The milk tanker had been on its last collection and contained 20,000 litres of milk, which has since been destroyed at the family's expense. The family will also have to pay £6,000 in costs to refund producers.
The second fire broke out on Monday, 20 February at around 4.45am. It destroyed a shed and everything stored inside, including a muck spreader, 100t of straw and 29.5t of fertiliser, totalling £27,500.
A spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service said: "We have completed our investigation and we believe it was started deliberately." Mr and Mrs Thomas are under a great deal of stress and Mrs Thomas said;"I can't sleep at night because I'm so worried. The biggest concern is that it will happen again."
Security measures have been stepped up on farm, but the couple admit they are concerned for their own safety. Mr Thomas believes he is being targeted by animal rights activists. "We've been here nearly eight years and have had no trouble and then there's that piece in the paper and this all happens," Mr Thomas said. However, would animal rights activists set fire to a building which contained live animals?
28 Feb 2012, 9:25 AM
BADGER TRUST LAUNCHES LEGAL BID TO PREVENT COSTLY, COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE CULL
A Press Release issued by the Badger Trust on 27 February 2012 has confirmed it will lodge a claim in the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of DEFRA’s decision of 14th December 2011 to kill badgers in England. The Trust continues to do all it can to prevent the proposed ‘DIY’ farmer-led cull, which, the group says, will not benefit badgers, cattle, farmers, rural communities or the tax-payer.
This action to have the decision quashed follows extensive legal and scientific advice as well as correspondence and meetings with DEFRA to clarify its position on the many issues of concern to the Trust. The Badger Trust and a majority of the public consider that the cull poses serious risks to cattle and badgers. The methodology for evaluating any results from the cull is also defective. Before now it was unclear what DEFRA had actually decided, and what remained to be decided following the ‘pilot’ culls planned for late 2012 in Gloucestershire and Somerset. In light of DEFRA’s various responses, the Trust has now concluded that the decision is unlawful and should be quashed.
The Trust will ask the court to overturn DEFRA’s decision on the basis of three grounds:
1, The Secretary of State has authorised Natural England to issue licences to reduce the rate of new incidences of bovine TB (although she expects a mere 12-16% reduction in bTB after 9 years at a huge net cost to the farmer). However, ‘reducing incidence’ is not the purpose for which the legal power was granted. The culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of "preventing the spread of disease" in the areas being licensed, and may in fact amount to a recipe for spreading the disease. DEFRA’s own evidence confirms that the proposed cull would in fact prompt the spread of disease in and around the cull zones. Badger Trust considers that this is entirely antithetical to the aims in the strict test set down in section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
2. The cost impact assessment underpinning DEFRA’s decision is flawed, as its cost assumptions are based on the farmer free-shooting option (this is estimated to be approximately ten times cheaper than cage-trapping badgers before killing them). However, after the first year of piloting the cull plans, the free-shooting method may be ruled out for being inhumane, ineffective or unsafe to the public. In that case, farmers will find themselves legally obliged to continue the cull on the much more costly "trap and shoot" basis until the end of the 4-year licence. This is a significant cost risk for farmers, yet it is not properly reflected in the cost impact assessment which underpinned DEFRA’s decision. The Secretary of State did not ask herself the right questions so as to obtain crucial information on costs. Badger Trust considers that this renders the decision entirely unlawful. Given the poor cost-benefit prognosis for the cull, the Trust also hopes that Parliament and the farming community will now carefully reconsider DEFRA’s ‘Big Society’ DIY cull plans.
3 Guidance which DEFRA issued to Natural England is invalid. Under section 15(2) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 the Secretary of State may issue guidance to Natural England as to how Natural England should exercise its functions. However, killing badgers is not one of Natural England’s original functions, which are mainly focussed on maintaining biodiversity. Even though DEFRA is making Natural England responsible for the licensing arrangements, under section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, culling badgers ‘for the prevention of spread of disease’ remains the Secretary of State’s own function. Thus, she had no legal power to issue section 15 guidance to Natural England in these circumstances.
The Badger Trust’s decision to bring this challenge arises from the following convictions and obligations which flow from them:
· Culling badgers as proposed (whether by free-shooting or trapping and shooting) can make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of bTB and risks making matters worse. Stricter cattle measures - as 10 years of taxpayer-funded independent research have concluded - will beat the disease.
· The badger appears to be a scapegoat for an industry that underrates the risk of cattle-to-cattle transmission, and one which has reportedly experienced a significant number of incidents of poor animal husbandry, fraud and flouting of cattle management regulations.
The Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP, said: "We have identified some serious flaws in the way by which the Secretary of State reached her decision to cull badgers. Given that DEFRA’s proposals come at an enormous cost to farmers, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease, we hope that this ill-conceived decision will be struck down by the court."
Pat Hayden, vice chairman of Badger Trust said: "Despite opposition from the majority of the public who responded to the Government’s consultations and stark warnings from many eminent independent scientists, it is astonishing that DEFRA has given the green light to a badger cull. Badger Trust will exhaust all peaceful, legal avenues of challenge to prevent this wrong-headed cull from going ahead."
1 The Badger Trust has a well-respected reputation for pursuing effective legal challenges on behalf of the badger. The Trust’s Judicial Review of the Welsh Assembly Government’s decision to kill badgers succeeded on all grounds in the Court of Appeal in 2010. The Trust considers that culling would not lead to any substantial reduction in the incidence of bTB and could make matters worse. As a result of the Trust’s proposed legal action in 2011, the new Welsh Government is reconsidering whether or not to undertake Government-led culling.
2 The Coalition Government’s own public consultation showed 67 per cent of those who responded were against culling. A BBC poll in June 2011 found 68 per cent against, and a nation-wide petition against culling currently has 52,000 signatures.
3 Given that DEFRA’s system for recording TB statistics has mysteriously been out of action since September 2011 it is unclear how any cull results can be properly evaluated.
4 This is because a campaign of culling inevitably disrupts badgers’ normally stable social structures and causes them to roam further in search of food and territory, thereby prompting the spread of disease. Badgers outside the area culled are also at risk of infection. The farmers' free-shooting scheme planned for later this year may well spread the disease more than the tested ‘cage-trap and shoot’ model used in the last cull in England (the DEFRA RBCT trials from 1997-2007 which concluded that culling was ineffective as a method of controlling TB).
Based on almost a decade of research costing over £50 million and 11,000 culled badgers, the report concluded that: "The ISG’s work – most of which has already been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals - has reached two key conclusions. First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone."
12 Feb 2012, 1:58 PM
Effectiveness of Biosecurity Measures in Preventing Badger Visits to Farm Buildings interesting paper published recently and available to read in full at www.plosone.org/article/info%253Adoi%252F10.1371%252Fjournal.pone.0028941
Results Badger visits to farm buildings occurred on 19 of the 32 farms in phase one. In phase two, the simple exclusion measures were 100% effective in preventing badger entry into farm buildings, as long as they were appropriately deployed. Furthermore, the installation of exclusion measures also reduced the level of badger visits to the rest of the farmyard. The findings of the present study clearly demonstrate how relatively simple practical measures can substantially reduce the likelihood of badger visits to buildings and reduce some of the potential for contact and disease transmission between badgers and cattle