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?
4 Mar 2016, 9:45 AM
Tall stories: BBC's anti-science support for badger culling
A programme to be broadcast on BBC2 promoting badger culling as the answer to bovine TB is praised in the corporation's flagship Radio Times, writes Lesley Docksey. But both are criticised by experts for their inaccuracy and bias. The main reservoir for bTB is, and always has been, the cattle themselves ....
For full article: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2987314/tall_stories_bbcs_antiscience_support_for_badger_culling.html?dm_i=1NFN,42NEO,906L7E,ER9GH,1
4 Mar 2016, 9:35 AM
Badger population at risk as Government orders cull of more than 50,000?
The Government has decided to expand the cull that has taken place over the past three years
More than 50,000 badgers are to be culled in a dramatic expansion of Government’s efforts to protect cattle against tuberculosis.
Over the past three years, just under 4,000 badgers have been killed in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset at a cost of more than £5m.
But The Times reported that the Government had now decided to expand the cull by killing more than 12 times that number at sites across the country, starting this autumn.
4 Mar 2016, 9:33 AM
Following from BWRD
After the cessation of Vaccination of Badgers in the IAA, we as a Group have been seeking a meeting with the BTB Eradication Team of the Welsh Government to find out their plans for a way forward.
We , have had 2 meetings, these are our findings from the meetings.
A more complete report of meeting (2) will be released on this website when minutes of the meeting have been agreed and published.
(1) Representing the West Wales Badger Watch and Rescue group, I attended a meeting on the 3d of February along with Steve Clark from Badger Trust Wales and representatives of other interested groups held in Cardiff at the Life Sciences Hub Wales. We were invited there to hear a briefing by Graham Smith who was commissioned by the Deputy Minister to model simulations of the effect of badger vaccination on bovine TB in badgers and cattle.
This simulation was commissioned to enable the Welsh Government to better understand the impact the non-availability of the badger vaccine for 2016.
From his figures, Graham drew the conclusion that the badger vaccine has had a rising impact on the spread of TB in cattle during the first 4 years since the program of vaccination was started. His simulation showed that there is a leveling off period after the initial vaccination period and suggested that a lull in the vaccination program during this leveling off period would not significantly change the outcome of the success of the program.
The TB vaccination team who were represented at the meeting were praised for the hard work they have put into making the project a success.
report by Debbie Day Donnelly
(2) The Welsh Governments BTB eradication Team state that as of this Month (March 2016) 95.2% of Welsh Farms are BTB Free. (Detail figures are available,and will be made public later).
By any measure, this a vast improvement on the past, and proves that the Welsh Government’s approach is working, both for Welsh Farmers and Badgers. For this figure was acheived without Culling a single Badger. It was acheived with improved testing regimes, ie. Gamma Interferon, instead of the standard Skin Test. And stricter cattle movement orders, and of course Vaccination, although the testing and cattle movement are the principle reasons for the success. Just 4.8% more and Wales will be a completely BTB free Zone. report by Ray Jenner
SO, No Culling is needed in Wales.
29 Feb 2016, 2:30 PM
GOVERNMENT WASTES £23 MILLION KILLING BADGERS BUT WAS UNWILLING TO FIND £427,000 TO FUND NATIONAL WILDLIFE CRIME UNIT
Note: we heard 2/3/16 that funding for the NWCU has been secured. Defra and the Home Office have made a commitment to maintain its funding, allowing it to continue protecting our wildlife from criminals.
The Badger Trust had criticised the government’s failure to commit to funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), which plays a key role in helping tackle badger persecution.
Despite widespread protests from leading conservationists, wildlife protection charities and MP’s across the political spectrum, Britain’s world-leading police unit dedicated to tackling wildlife crime at home and abroad, is facing closure at the end of March.
The National Wildlife Crime Unit has had to fight to maintain funding for a number of years and was only saved at the last minute in 2014, as a result of securing new funding from DEFRA and the Home Office.
Commenting on the imminent closure of the NWCU the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“This government has wasted over £23 million killing mostly health badgers in a disastrous culling policy which has failed on scientific and humaneness grounds. Despite this huge expense, they refuse to commit less than £0.5 million to save the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Following a meeting with the Badger Trust in April 2015, the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss confirmed to me that badger persecution was a UK national wildlife crime priority, but this commitment rings hollow with the expected closure of the police unit, which plays such a key part in protecting badgers against wildlife criminals”
Responding to the possible closure of the NWCU the Chairman of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
“Wildlife is a fundamental part of British life and, as a nation, we are famous, the world over, for our care and conservation principles. This failure to protect our National Wildlife Crime Unit will be seen as a national disgrace and sends an appalling message to those sections of society that delight in or profit from the suffering of all kinds of animals.
Despite its protected status we are already seeing an alarming increase in badger persecution incidents as a result of the demonisation of badgers by the farming lobby and the government’s policy on culling, most of which is going unreported. This is another example of a thoughtless, ideologically driven political initiative that will push wildlife crime prevention onto individual police forces at a time when their own budgets are being cut and will likely end up costing more than they are hoping to save. And all this will be achieved at the expense of untold suffering not just to badgers but all our country’s animals.
29 Feb 2016, 2:07 PM
BADGER / CATTLE AVOIDANCE
The great badger TB debate has gone on for some 45 years without clear resolution. Several recent Irish studies have re-confirmed that the TB DNA strains are the same in badgers and cattle, so irrefutably transmission is still happening... but who is infecting whom !?
Cattle TB is 100 % a respiratory infection, caught via prolonged close aerosol contact with other cattle in enclosed spaces such as barns or milking parlours. So too human "consumption" ..you wont catch a cold passing someone with a sniffle in the street, but you will get a bad dose of flu sharing an office or bus for a few hours with someone coughing and sneezing the bugs. So is unlikely to be from badgers. Recent elegant studies in Ireland with GPS Proximity data logger collars have actually now shown that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture and in farmyards. Enda Mullen in Eire found 3 badgers visited 19 grazing paddocks, but 76 % of the visits were when cattle were absent. She also found that out of 30,764 "fixes" there were only 66 visits to farmyards. Another Ulster study by Declan O'Mahony, found that out of 439,776 "fixes" there were only 34 visits to farmyards.
And Julian Drewe in Glos. found that out of 582,535 "animal to animal" interactions at pasture , there were just 4 within a "breathing" distance of 1.4 metres. Earlier studies found that badgers visited English farms quite frequently, but most visits were brief in the summer for a drink and snack of cattle nuts , when cattle were out at pasure anyway. Some 500 hours of video footage showed there was no close contacts under 2 metres separation even in barns.
So, in truth, cattle are extremely unlikely to catch TB from badgers. Whereas badgers turning over cow pats for dor beetles and worms are almost guaranteed to get the bugs by accidental ingestion. Incidentally no-one has checked whether Greater Horse shoe bats too get TB from dung beetles in cattle TB areas.
So unsurprising that the RBCT/Krebs cull of 11,000 badgers had Nil effect on cattle TB ; accumulated breakdowns were identical in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 vs 358 . And as regards the Welsh IAA Vaccination trial , Dr. Glossop admitted vaccinating 4500 badgers in 287 sq. km. has had Nil effect so far either. So a waste of some £55 million....towards £30 for the three recent Pilot culls.. including a disgraceful £7million on extra policing.
DEFRA in their Aug.28th Consultations on TB at last discovered that the 90 % or so herd breakdowns supposedly "Due to badgers" were merely caused by early cattle reactors with No Visible lung Lesions, so unconfirmed cases . Since foot & mouth 2001, out of some 450,000 cattle removed .. c. 260,000 were these NVL/ unconfirmed reactors spreading TB far and wide .. some 20 million cattle movements annually...so absolutely nothing to do with badgers after all.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, 17 Nouncells Cross Stroud GL5 1PT (sorry no phone) .
OVER-PRICED BADGERS WILL NOT CURE CATTLE TB ( re. Stop Press Farmers weekly 12th Feb. 2016)
The very long running (45 year old) Badger TB debate may have accidentally reached a U-turn watershed ? If farmers and vets have at last belatedly realised that any further badger culls or vaccinations are a spectacular waste of time and money , because they do not work, because badgers have never been the problem in the first place ! . The un-noticed "Final Death of the Great Badgers and TB debate actually occurred on the 28th of August 2015 .. with DEFRA's 3 consultations on cull licensing and added cattle controls. There have always been 2 sorts of cattle skin test TB reactors .. early cases have NVL = No Visible Lesions (in the lungs) so are Unconfirmed reactors , and later TB cases with Visible confirmatory TB lesions. DEFRA have AT Last woken up to the fact that these NVL cases DO have TB ( are not false positive), so badgers as "the main cause" of the 90 % of unconfirmed herd breakdowns in re-stocking after the BSE/Mad Cow peak in 1993, in areas TB free in either cattle or badgers for 20 years , were simply due to local movements of NVL/Unconfirmed cattle reactors... QED : badger edge vaccination spectacularly meaningless .. pre & post-movement cattle tests the simple solution.
Last September the various vaccination schemes were called off ostensibly due to a shortage of Badger BCG. In fact, Chief Vet Dr. Glossop actually noted that vaccinating some 4,500 badgers in the Welsh IAA 287 sq. km. trial area , at a cost of c. £5 million had had no effect on cattle TB. Despite the allegation that up to 40 % of new herd breakdowns are supposedly caused by badgers. This has been re-affirmed by the urgent AHVLA re-assessment of whether culls/vaccines will ever do the slightest good :- Simulations of the effect of badger vaccination on Btb in Badgers and cattle within the IAA http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/160203-iaa-vaccine-modelling-report.pdf . These "Scientific" computer simulation models suffer from the well known painful GIGO Ailment, Garbage in = Garbage out .. assumptions on transmission rates amongst and between badgers and cattle are pure fantasy guesswork... and this is still claiming the rise in TB in the 2 km wide buffer ring outside the proactive cull area was due to the badger cull, even though there was NO cull out there. The true result of the £50 million RBCT/ Krebs cull of 11,000 badgers was also in fact Nil effect on cattle TB . Reactive cull versus no cull areas, accumulated confirmed cattle TB herd breakdowns 356 vs 358 ! In addition, vaccinating 569 badgers in 20 sq.km. did not prevent 6 herd breakdowns on the Killerton Estate in 2014. And the North Nibley perturbation cull of 27 badgers (10 TB +) , did not stop repeat breakdowns in the following 3 years.
So, there will have been Zero effect on cattle TB from last years cull of 1467 badgers in the Glos., Somerset & Dorset Pilot areas , maybe a mere dozen with infectious TB as extrapolated from the RBCT data in c. 450 sq.km.. Costs so far heading towards £ 30 million. And just revealed , the disgraceful costs of extra policing came to nearly £7 Million ... 2013- 2015 : 3.5; 1.4; 1.7 million = £6.6 million.
Interesting the farmer/ politician responses to all this .. Brian Thomas of the Farmers Union Wales, urges Rebecca Evans to stop wasting time on vaccination ( if BCG becomes available in 2017 ), since there has been no impact between vaccinated / non-vaccinated areas.. bring back culls! Liz Truss aims to bring back Edge vaccination even though it is blindingly obvious expansion of hotspots is by local cattle movements , absolutely nothing to do with badgers. And sadly, it seems that farmers in at least 10 new areas have expressed an interest in applying for licences for further badger Pilot culls a.s.a.p., since farmers still wrongly believe that badgers "Are the main cause of this spread of TB" :- Cornwall, Devon, North Glos., E. Sussex, Leics., Staffs., Wilts., Worcs., Bucks., Herefordshire.
Sadly too farmers have been bamboozled into "badger proofing" barns at a cost of anything from £600 to £ 12,500 . Everyone have forgotten the only proven case in 45 years where badgers did give calves TB in a very artificial enclosed yard experiment.. both cattle and human respiratory TB is caught via such prolonged close aerosol contact. Little 1982 found 4 calves exposed for under a month apparently didn't get TB. So badgers popping into barns in the summer, for a drink and snack of cattle nuts, will pose Nil risk to the cattle, which are out at pasture anyway ! Several elegant studies with "Proximity data logger collars" have re-established the fact that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture and in barns, so the actual risk of bcows getting TB from badgers is pretty much NIL !
Perhaps the saddest tragedy in this Alice in Wonderland saga (see Death of Debate www.badgersandtb.com) is the flawed advice to hard pressed farmers , from the scientific & veterinary experts, who should know better.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-govmt. TB Panel. www.badgersandtb.com
16 Feb 2016, 6:14 PM
The whopping taxpayer bill for policing last year’s badger culling in Dorset, Gloucester and Somerset was was £1,675,112. Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have confirmed this amount
The Government previously revealed that 1,467 badgers were killed in 2015 - meaning each badger killed cost around £1,142 in policing costs alone.
Total police costs for the three years of culling have now reached £6.5million. What an utter waste of taxpayers' money.
12 Feb 2016, 12:18 PM
Government report confirms badger vaccination is working and a year break (as a result of the supply problem with tuberculin) will not result in any increase in TB in badgers
The Badger Trust has welcomed a report by the Animal & Plant Health Agency for the Welsh Government on the success of its badger vaccination project.
The report was commissioned after the decision by the Welsh Government to temporarily halt badger vaccination due to a global shortage of BCG TB vaccine. The work was performed in order to determine the most likely effects of not using the BCG vaccine for badgers in 2016, after successfully using the trap and inject approach with BCG for 4 years between 2011 and 2015.
The analysis simulated a variety of different badger vaccination strategies to manage bovine TB within the Intensive Action Area in Wales. It used a current badger and cattle bTB model that has been repeatedly peer reviewed and published in the scientific literature used for reporting to DEFRA, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments.
The report found that 4 years of continuous badger vaccination has substantially reduced the prevalence of TB in badgers and this decline would continue over a ten year period although the benefit of each later year of vaccination was less than in earlier years.
Due to the group immunity effect, a 1 year interruption in badger vaccination in 2016 was not found to result in any increase in the prevalence of TB in badgers.
Commenting on the findings of the report the Chief Executive of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said:
“We are delighted to see confirmation that badger vaccination is leading to a substantial reduction in the prevalence of TB in badgers and that any temporary halt while the global stocks of BCG vaccine recover, will not lead to an increase in the spread of the disease in badgers.
I am disappointed to see the Farmers Union of Wales calling for an end to badger vaccination in the Intensive Action Area in Wales on the grounds that the cost of £700 per badger is a ‘waste of public money’, when DEFRA is spending over £7,000 per badger on a disastrous badger cull policy in England, without testing any of the badgers killed for TB.
Badger vaccination is scientifically proven to work and has huge public and political support in England and Wales. It plays a key role in bringing conservation and wildlife protection groups together with farmers and landowners in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence. It’s a perfect example of David Cameron's "Big Society" in action"
The Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin said
"Rather than attack the Welsh Government for vaccinating badgers against TB, the Farmers Union of Wales should be celebrating its success. They should be calling on DEFRA and the NFU in England to follow the Welsh example of reducing bovine TB by focusing on improved cattle testing and movement controls. New incidents of bovine TB in cattle are now down by 28% in Wales with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This now leaves 94% of the Welsh herd TB free, without killing any badgers.”
10 Feb 2016, 7:24 PM
Will we lose the badger as a species in the UK if badger culling becomes widespread and persistent - despite the fact that badgers rarely contract or pass on bTB? Badger culling is costly policy which scientific experts have warned is both ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’.
Badger culling could be extended to at least 12 new areas of England over the next two years, after Defra Secretary Liz Truss gave the green light to extend the policy last week.
Some areas are already well prepared to go in 2016, including two of about 300-400sq.km in North Devon and North Cornwall, both of which had licence applications rejected in 2015.
An area in Herefordshire, also rejected in 2015, is likely to be in the frame while others are at various stages of preparation across the South West, including in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, as well as further north in the Midlands in areas where bTB is rife. .
NFU president Meurig Raymond said he believed six new areas would be ‘feasible’ next year, with more to follow in 2017.
Mrs Truss announced last week Defra would allow badger culling to ‘take place over a wide number of areas next year’, alongside a tightening up of cattle controls.
She gave the green light after the culls in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset all met their targets in 2015. Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens had advised this confirmed badger control could be an effective way of controlling bTB.
Mr Raymond said: “Farmers are absolutely ready to go in lots of areas for next year and the year after that.
He said farmers in the north of England, in particular, would welcome the introduction of post-movement testing from April as a means of protecting their herds from bTB.
Shadow Defra Secretary Kerry McCarthy echoed the chorus of criticism from animal welfare campaigners, accusing Mrs Truss of ‘stubbornly persisting with a costly policy scientific experts have warned is both ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’.
27 Jan 2016, 11:31 AM
NEW VOICE FOR THE PROTECTION OF BADGERS IN EUROPEAN UNION
The Badger Trust joined badger groups from France, Holland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in Brussels on Tuesday 19 January, to establish EuroBadger, a new European network to raise awareness of badgers and to strengthen legislation at Member State and EU level for their protection.
EuroBadger is promoting a more positive vision for the species whereby humans across the continent learn to live in harmony with and cherish this important wild mammal without destroying its habitat or indulging in the kind of mass killing and persecution they have faced in the recent past. The new body will work closely with the EU Member States, European Commission and European Parliament to achieve its aims and objectives.
A key focus for EuroBadger will be to address the importance of badgers to biodiversity and habitat protection across the EU and to seek alternative polices to the indiscriminate mass killing of badgers being undertaken in England and Ireland, in an attempt to reduce bovine TB in cattle.
Responding to the launch of EuroBadger the CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said
“Badgers are a hugely important species in the landscape of Europe but they are coming under increasing threat as a result of government supported culling programmes, increasing levels of persecution, and destruction of their habitats for building developments.
EuroBadger will enable badger protection groups for the first time to join forces across Europe and take the battle to protect badgers to Brussels. Protection levels for badgers are fragmented and inconsistent around the continent but we will now be able to push politicians and policy makers for a more rational and coherent approach in order to prevent the possible loss of the species from many regions of Europe”.
The Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin said
“The Trust took a gamble initiating the EuroBadger project so it’s been very rewarding to see such immediate enthusiasm from our colleagues across Europe. In particular we need to dismantle the regressive ‘culture of killing’ that informs so many of our current rural practices. The UK is a case in point where attempts to control bovine TB by mass culling of badgers has proved both very costly and inhumane, but has also halted or worsened the decline in cattle TB levels that is already being seen through improved cattle testing and movement controls.
All this has been done without having to take account of any EU wide framework for the protection of badgers or the impact of culling on other wildlife species. EuroBadger will therefore play a crucial role in opening up the debate on alternative non-lethal TB mitigation strategies for badgers and refocusing efforts for lowering bovine TB in cattle on to improved TB testing methods and the development of effective TB vaccination programmes for both cattle and badgers”
EuroBadger is currently putting together a unique EU country report on badgers looking at their populations, habitats, legal protection and threats to their survival. This report will be launched at an event in the European Parliament in the Spring of 2016.
21 Jan 2016, 1:29 PM
Flooding & Badger Shooting – Who calls DEFRA’s Shots?
The Badger Army is a growing group of volunteers from all over the UK that have come together in protest against the Conservative Government’s badger cull. Over the past two years the campaigners have organised 31 protest marches, surveyed for 100s of badger setts in the cull zones, searched for wounded badgers during the culls and patrolled the cull zones at night with the aim of saving as many badger lives as possible.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Badger Army will be busy over the coming years.
One positive bit stood out - from Dr Ian Givvon, we hope it proves to be factual:
I do not think that the development of a vaccine is years away; we may yet get a shock and find that comes about within six to 18 months. People are working 33WH extremely hard to develop that vaccine and with the new developments in the production of vaccines—including peptide technologies—emanating from the molecular biology in which we are pre-eminent in this country, who knows what will happen? We should be much more positive about that area.
5 Jan 2016, 10:11 AM
Environment Secretary Liz Truss told Parliament last month that England's badger cull is 'working', and needs to be extended into new areas, writes Oliver Tickell. Yet she and the NFU have refused to release the evidence to back up her claims. Now MPs and NGOs are joining the cry: 'publish or be damned!'
Here's what we do know. In the two counties where the cull has been taking place for three years, Gloucestershire saw no change in new TB infections between 2014 and 2015. In Somerset the level of new TB incidents in cattle jumped from 297 to 320 - a 7.75% increase.
Members of the EFRA parliamentary select committee that has oversight of Defra matters are getting a bit antsy (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmenvfru/443/44307.htm?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,9LWJGT,E4WTD,1). Here's what they recently stated:
"Opinions differ strongly over how best to manage threats from diseases such as bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Defra must establish a thorough evidence base for underpinning policy formulation and communicate it in a fully transparent manner to set out clearly the reasons for the policy decisions it takes.
"Defra must publish full data on bTB incidence in areas where badgers have been culled.
"Tackling diseases such as bTB require a holistic approach and we recommend that the Government rolls out at the earliest opportunity all aspects of its strategy which are underpinned by a strong evidence base.
"We further recommend that Defra takes into account approaches by devolved administrations and the evidence as to the effectiveness or otherwise of the different nations' approaches to managing bTB."
But that adds up to, all expressed in the most parliamentary of language, is this: "Do the science, and give us the evidence!"
See full article at: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2986711/so_badger_culls_are_working_liz_truss_produce_your_evidence.html?dm_i=1NFN,3XNO1,906L7E,E6T5P,1
21 Dec 2015, 5:12 PM
A Freedom of Information request has apparently revealed that Cornwall Buckinghamshire , Devon, East Sussex, Herefordshire, Leicestershire , Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire have asked to be included in the next round of badger culling.
According to the Guardian the government is to relax the restrictions on its controversial badger culls as it rolls them out to new areas in 2016. However, a leading scientist has warned that the move makes it even less likely that culling will achieve its aim of reducing tuberculosis in cattle and could even make it worse.
Following manipulation of target levels the badger culls in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset met their kill targets in 2015, environment secretary Liz Truss announced last week, although scientists had warned in October that the low targets set were unlikely to be effective.
As predicted the Government has simply ignored the consultation. It sets out the summary of responses to the consultation which are overwhelming opposed to making culling arrangements 'more flexible', and the (reasonable basis these objections - as provided by the majority of responses. And then simply ignores them.
Summary of responses to the consultation on Guidance to Natural England on licences to control the risk of bovine tuberculosis from badgers
Earlier this year Defra invited comments on proposed licence changes, which would provide more flexibility in the control of badger populations in areas were bovine TB is a problem, and which would increase the potential to achieve disease control benefits. The consultation ran from 28 August to 25 September 2015 and we are grateful for the responses we received.
Ministers are being warned that the way they are using marksmen to shoot the wild animals may not be humane. The influential British Veterinary Association has supported the Government¹s cull strategy that has seen hundreds of badgers shot over the past two years across the West Country.
Recent figures reveal that 279 badgers were culled in Somerset, 432 in Gloucestershire and 756 in Dorset earlier this year, the BVA expressed strong reservations about the way the badgers are being killed. As a new round of culling was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the BVA raised its concerns about badgers being shot as they move around in the countryside rather than at point blank range in a trap.
Animal welfare campaigners say since the culls began no research has ever been carried out to determine how many, if any, of the dead badgers actually carried bTB.
The UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Philip Mansbridge, said: "Of course the Government is claiming success because the minimum number of badger deaths has been achieved that's simply because they moved the goalposts and drastically reduced the targets. "However, it is not a success by any other measure, and leading experts, scientists and vets repeatedly condemn the badger cull as ineffective and inhumane.
"The Government is naturally shouting much less about the latest figures that show that new TB incidences have actually gone up by 7.75 per cent in Somerset, despite badger culling having taken place in that region since the cull began.
"If badgers do have a role in the spread of bovine TB they are only a small piece of the puzzle. Badger vaccination is massively cheaper than the ludicrous price tag of more than £7,000 per badger killed last year. It is ludicrous for the Government to be using these reduced targets to justify a roll out of the cull.
"Ultimately though, we need to stop this cruel and pointless badger cull and focus on the long-term solution of a vaccine for cattle."
BADGER TRUST BACKS MP’S CALL FOR PROOF THAT CULLS ARE WORKING AS TB RATES RISE IN CULL ZONES
The Badger Trust has backed calls from Parliament’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for the government to provide clear evidence that the badger culls are working as the latest figures show TB in cattle is rising in and around the cull zones.
The move follows the release of new data from DEFRA for Somerset which shows that in the 12 months to September 2014 the level of new TB incidents in cattle was 297 but in the 12 months to September 2015, this jumped to 320 a 7.75% increase, despite badger culling having now taken place in Somerset for the last 3 years.
This is in stark contrast to claims made by NFU President Meurig Raymond in his speech at their annual conference in Birmingham in February that cattle TB incidents in the Somerset cull zone had decreased from 34% to 11% between 2013 and 2015, which he claimed could only be due to the culling of badgers.
Responding to the EFRA Select Committee and the latest DEFRA bovine TB data Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said,
“The government is attempting to bury bad news by releasing the 2015 badger cull figures on the day of the Christmas Recess in Westminster. Despite claiming all the cull contractors have met their targets for 2015, there is no evidence the killing of badgers is reducing the level of bovine TB in cattle
I am pleased to see that the EFRA Select Committee has called on DEFRA to establish a thorough evidence base for underpinning policy formulation on bovine TB and for this to be communicated in a fully transparent manner. They are also right to call for an urgent release of data on the level of bovine TB in the badger cull zones.
The claims by the NFU and pro-cull politicians that badger culling is delivering a significant reduction in bovine TB are looking increasingly bogus and the exact opposite of the truth. £20 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent killing thousands of badgers and yet cattle TB in Somerset is on the rise. To put this in context, TB rates in cattle outside of the cull zones have been dropping consistently for five years due to improved testing, bio-security and movement controls.
Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin added,
“The government’s own risk assessments stated before the culls began that there was a high probability that cattle TB rates would rise following the badger culls and this was backed up by the country’s top scientists in the field. In practice the culls have been condemned by independent scientists and vets as inhumane and the sub-optimal way they are being conducted means they have mostly failed to achieve even their basic targets.
The EFRA Select Committee is absolutely right to call on DEFRA to take greater account of the alternative TB reduction strategies of the devolved administrations. The Welsh Government's approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bovine TB in cattle are now down by 28% in Wales with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This now leaves 94% of the Welsh heard TB free, without killing any badgers.
Unless the government can prove the culling of badgers is working in terms of lowering TB in cattle, this cruel, ineffective and hugely costly policy must be stopped immediately."
DEFRA's Select Committee Recommendations can be found: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmenvfru/443/44307.htm?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,J7O91H,E4WTD,1
DEFRA's quarterly publication of national statistics on the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis in cattle in Great Britain can be found at: http://i.emlfiles1.com/cmpdoc/7/2/0/7/7/files/340919_bovinetb-statsnotice-09dec15.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,J7O91H,E4WTE,1
7 Dec 2015, 9:33 AM
Thousands more badgers could be culled after the badger vaccination programme was suspended in Wales (currently no badgers are being culled in Wales). A worldwide shortage of vaccines has meant supplies are being prioritised for humans.
Ministers in England are apparently considering abandoning similar scheme programmes in England (where badger culling is still taking place) - inevitable if there is no vaccine available.
Typically, some farmers are calling fo morer badger culling.
9 Nov 2015, 6:15 PM
An MP in New Zealand says he has figures which disprove the perception that possums and wild pigs are responsible for spreading bovine tuberculosis. It seems these creatures are being used, as the badger is in the UK, as scapegoats.
NZ First's Richard Prosser says more than 124,000 possums were autopsied over the last 10 years and only 54 had bovine TB - a rate of 0.04%. And over the last eight years, only 18 wild pigs tested positive out of a total of more than 7700 examined - less than one quarter of one per cent. "Wild pigs are no more responsible for spreading bovine TB than possums," Mr Prosser said.
"These numbers, supplied in response to questions to the Ministry for Primary Industries, are unequivocal and turn long-held perceptions about bovine TB on their heads."
Mr Prosser says there's been a 40 percent reduction in the number of infected cattle since movement control was introduced in 2012. "Coupled with the wild animal figures that we have from the government's records, this strongly suggests that effective movement control has been the real answer to TB in cattle all along," he said. "The single biggest reservoir and vector for bovine tuberculosis is cattle. It always has been cattle."
GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO REVEAL COST JUSTIFICATION FOR NEW BADGER CULLS
A Freedom of Information Request (FoI) has revealed that the Government’s promised financial reappraisal of its badger cull policy will not be made public.
In 2011 the Government stated in a policy paper  see here, that it would revise its cost benefit analysis with data from the pilot badger culls undertaken in Somerset and Gloucestershire, before making any decision on rolling out the policy to new areas of the country.
The culls were extended to Dorset this year despite the county having one of the best TB reduction results in the whole South West but no information on whether the extension was justified has ever been published.
Reacting to this decision to withhold key information on the cost benefit analysis of the badger culls, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust said:
“The badger culls have proven a disastrous failure on scientific and humaneness grounds but a key factor which is likely to bring the policy to an end is the huge cost burden on the tax payer. We learned from Risk Registers published in February 2015, after a 3 year legal battle between DEFRA and the Badger Trust, that Ministers were advised that the cull policy could lead to huge financial loss or budgetary over run.
“With DEFRA confirming the culls in 2013 and 2014 cost the tax payer £16.8 million or £6,775 per badger killed, these fears have proved well grounded.
“We now learn that the Government are hiding their cost benefit analysis for the pilot badger culls, despite confirming this would play a key part in any final decision on rolling out the policy, as they have now done in Dorset.
“The Government’s reluctance to release this information, proves what we have known all along, the badger cull is a hugely expensive, scientifically flawed and inhumane policy which is unlikely to make a significant contribution to lowering the level of bovine TB in cattle.
“The Badger Trust calls on the Environment Secretary Liz Truss to immediately release the cost benefit analysis of the 2013 and 2014 pilot culls into the public domain.”
Peter Martin, Chair of the Badger Trust said:
“This policy is now becoming something of a national scandal. The levels of secrecy surrounding its implementation indicate that the Government has something serious to hide from us.
“The public and MPs should have been given full access to the cost benefit analysis on the pilot badger culls before any decision was taken to roll out the policy to new areas of the country. People’s trust and confidence in the Government is being tested to its limit as all the indications from DEFRA’s published figures suggest this policy is not only ruinously expensive but also failing on every measured indicator.
“This was supposed to be a farmer led and farmer paid for initiative, but as the taxpayer is picking up the bill the very least the Government should do is tell the truth about whether this money is being properly spent. One has to assume that if it was they would be more than happy to tell us, so I suggest we can draw our own conclusions on this.
"What is really worrying is that the Government constantly reiterates the culls will be extended round the country but if they cannot justify the expenditure then they should cancel the policy now. They should stop playing the badger blame game and focus on a programme of improved cattle control measures, biosecurity and TB testing systems, similar to those which have delivered a 48% drop in the level of new bovine TB cases in cattle in Wales over the last 5 years, without any badger culling. English farmers simply cannot wait any longer for the Government to get its act together on this and DEFRA should stop wasting their time and our taxes on this failed cull policy.”
 In particular see paragraphs 4.17/4.18 on page 16.
4.17. The cost assumptions used in the Impact Assessment are for the pilot areas, and it is likely that the Government costs would be lower for areas licensed subsequently as the monitoring costs in particular would be lower. The farming industry is also confident that it can deliver culling at a lower cost than estimated in the Impact Assessment. There are however plainly some uncertainties around the estimated costs and benefits. This provides an additional reason for the decision to proceed cautiously with a pilot in two areas initially before considering whether to proceed with a wider roll-out. (That cautious approach is in any event justified by the desirability of conducting a pilot to test our expectations in relation to the efficacy, safety and humaneness of culling by means of controlled shooting.)
4.18. Culling in two pilot areas will enable us to test our and the farming industry’s cost assumptions for elements of the policy where there is currently uncertainty. Alongside the outcome of the evaluation of culling in the pilot areas (see paragraph 6.1), this will also inform our decision on wider roll-out of the policy.
Press release from Badger Trust
2 Nov 2015, 9:45 AM
Professor Lord Krebs, the well respected, leading scientist, in a BBC interview says how he believes figures showing a fall in bovine TB cases in areas where the current cull have taken place are not enough to claim it is a success. He has accused the National Farmers Union of giving farmers false hope about the impact of badger culling on bovine tuberculosis
Lord Krebs is the author of the report which led to the 10 year Randomised Badger Culling Trials from 1998- 2008.
2 Nov 2015, 9:27 AM
The Tory Government is refusing to reveal a key report which will reveal whether the controversial badger cull is effective and good value for money. Last year each badger culled cost more than £7,500.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has blocked publication of the major analysis, despite a freedom of information requests.
We ask - does the secret document throw into doubt claims the cull is worthwhile and economically viable?
Many already believe the badger cull is a hugely expensive, scientifically flawed and inhumane policy which is likely to make no significant contribution to lowering the level of bovine TB in cattle.
Defra refused to release the documents, saying: “We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosure of information concerning the badgerculls in order to enable the public to assess the quality of policy formulation, advice and guidance, to enhance transparency of decision making and increase Government accountability.
“However, Defra has concluded that the public interest in withholding the information sought outweighs the public interest in its disclosure.
“The assessment of value for money is still in draft form. Defra took a measured approach by extending culling to one additional area this year (Dorset) in order to test lessons learned in a new area and to expand the evidence base that will be used to inform analysis of badger cull cost assumptions and value for money.
“Information from this year’s culls will be used to refine Defra’s cost assumptions in the coming months and releasing an interim assessment before it has been finalised could mislead the public, distract from the discussion of effective disease control and impinge on the safe space officials require to develop the policy.”
28 Oct 2015, 6:45 PM
Exmoor farmer calls for rethink on badger culling
A WEST Somerset farmer has called on the government to rethink its “failed” policy to tackle Bovine TB.
Michael Reed, a fifth generation Exmoor farmer, slammed the current “slaughter and culling” programme and urged the government to fast track a cattle vaccine.
Mr Reed, who runs Higher Ranscombe farm, spoke of the distress he and other farmers faced having to watch their herds being decimated.
“It is heart-breaking to see cows being carted away especially when they have young calves,” he said.
“What makes it worse is very often the TB test results are inconclusive but the cows are taken away anyway. I ask for a re-test but the officials aren’t interested.”
Mr Reed, whose family has been farming on Exmoor for over 200 years, added: “All that’s happening just now is culling badgers and slaughtering cattle.
It’s a failed policy but the government is just carrying on with it.” Mr Reed said his 200 acre farm had been clear of BTB for three years. However, in March two cows tested positive while four others had inconclusive tests but were still slaughtered.