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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?

Is the tide turning against badger cull politically and scientifically?
Meurig Raymond and Minette Batters of the NFU are making statements about the effectiveness of the badger cull on bringing down bTB rates that they cannot possibly substantiate.
Lord Krebs, the scientist who led the Randomised Badger Culling Trials for ten years from 1998 to 2008 publicly rubbished the claims of the NFU leader that culling had brought down bTB rates in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Lord Krebs said the only evidence, from a Defra report from 2014, showed TB rates in herds in the two counties had actually gone up rather than down after the first year of culling. The NFU insisted their anecdotal evidence of a fall in TB was based on the first two years of culling. “We have always been clear that the figures we have pointed to, which clearly show a reduction in TB incidence, are anecdotal and are based on reports from farmers on the ground and vets, and, crucially, take account of two years of culling,” said Andy Robertson, NFU Director General.
Dominick Dyer of the Badger Trust Mr Dyer insisted the row had crystallised for many people – including, he alleged, some Conservative MPs and scientists – that the cull wasn’t working. “People are now saying: ‘this isn’t a particularly good policy’. It never looked too good on humanness grounds – but Conservatives may not have been too bothered about that – but it is also not effective and is very expensive for taxpayers,” he said. He added that in his view any idea that Liz Truss, Secretary of State at Defra, would now be rolling the cull out more widely had been dealt a major blow. “I don’t think we are anywhere near a wider roll-out of the cull across the country,” he said.
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Are Farmers Being Deliberately Misled About Badger Culls?, asks the Huffington Post.
As this year's licensed badger culls come to an end, a row is emerging over whether farmers are being misled about the impacts on cattle tuberculosis within the cull zones.
This year was the third year of culling in licensed zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire, the two original 'pilot zones', and the first in a new zone in Dorset. During the first two years of shooting in Somerset and Gloucestershire, a total of nearly 2,500 badgers were reported to have been killed. If this year's license targets have been met, between 935 and 2038 additional animals will have lost their lives across the three zones.
Statutory measures designed to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle led to the premature slaughter of around 33,000 cattle last year across Britain, at a cost to the taxpayer of close to £100 million.
Proponents of badger culling claim that widespread killing of supposedly protected wild animals will significantly reduce these impacts and costs.
The basis for this claim comes from the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), the largest trial ever conducted in order to determine the impact of a wildlife intervention on a disease of livestock. The RBCT, which took almost 10 years, costing the taxpayer some £50 million and 11,000 badgers their lives, showed that if you conduct an intensive, simultaneous cull over a large area, removing a large proportion of the population in the first year and maintaining it at the reduced level for at least 4 years, you might achieve a reduction of new TB cases in cattle of just 12-16 percent nine years after culling commenced. The scientists who oversaw the trial concluded that 'badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.'
The current culls have not been intensive or simultaneous. Instead they have been haphazard, patchy, and carried out over extended periods of up to 11 weeks. They have also failed to reduce badger populations in the cull zones by the proportion suggested by the RBCT, advised by experts and required by their license, and failed to meet humaneness criteria set by a government-appointed Independent Expert Panel. These facts alone invalidate any attempt to use the results of the RBCT to predict the outcome of the current policy. Indeed the perturbing effect the culls will be having on the surviving badgers in the cull zones makes it very likely that the prevalence of TB among badgers will have increased, potentially increasing the risk to cattle.
In spite of this, senior politicians, farming leaders and some vets have already been claiming that there have been massive reductions in cattle TB in the cull zones, and that this shows that the culls are working and should be rolled out to more areas of the country.
A former Environment Secretary, who oversaw the start of the pilot culls, has been widely reported as saying the culls are working and should be extended.
In his speech to the National Farmers Union Annual Conference in February, its president stated:
"I want to stress that in the two pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire we are already seeing that TB incidence on farms has declined. Not just by a small amount either - in the Somerset pilot area TB incidence on farm has decreased from 34% to 11% compared with two years ago. In Gloucestershire, vets are also reporting a reduction in TB in cattle too."
And a well-known Gloucestershire vet is reported to have told a local veterinary meeting in Exeter in February 2015 that the culls in Gloucestershire had resulted in a huge decrease in cattle TB, and that the killing of "small black and white animals" had actually saved the lives of huge numbers of "large black and white animals".
However, closer examination of the government's own data reveals a very different picture.
Badger culls haven't been taking place in isolation. Over the past few years the government has been introducing a range of cattle-focussed measures aimed at reducing the spread of TB between cattle. These measures include increased cattle testing frequencies and the use of multiple tests to help overcome the fact that the standard test typically misses a third or more of infected cattle. Stricter controls over cattle movements have also been implemented, alongside improved biosecurity measures to help reduce the chances of cattle coming into contact with infective materials. These measures are having a big impact, as would be expected given that bovine TB is primarily a disease of cattle, and by far the most likely way it spreads is from cow to cow.
So to make any judgement about the impacts of badger culling, changes in cattle TB rates within cull zones need to be compared to similar areas which have been subjected to the same cattle measures but where no badger culling has taken place.
The government has commissioned some work on this, comparing the rates of bovine TB within and outside cull zones for the first year of culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
In Somerset, the figures show that the number of cattle slaughtered because of positive TB tests within the cull zone fell from 246 to 208 in the 12 months before and after the cull, a fall of 20%. However, a similar fall was seen in a 'comparison zone' where no culling took place. In Gloucestershire, the numbers of cattle slaughtered actually rose within the cull zone after the first year of badger culls, whereas in the 'comparison zone' numbers fell. The numbers of cattle herds affected within the cull zones rose after the first year of culls in both Somerset and Gloucestershire.
We should remember that the current culls were never designed to establish whether badger culling will reduce TB in cattle. The RBCT is the only study specifically designed to do this, and the scientists who conducted it stated in their final report: 'It is unfortunate that agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger population control'. As Lord Krebs, who is widely credited with initiating the RBCT, made clear in a recent interview on Radio 4's Farming Today programme, farmers are being given false hope by the National Farmers Union and other cull proponents. It's interesting to note that the National Farmers Union declined to take part in that programme.
Claims that the current haphazard, poorly conducted and inhumane badger culls are somehow responsible for big reductions in cattle TB rates are unsubstantiated and irresponsible, particularly given the additional cattle measures that are being put in place, and it's highly unlikely that it will ever be possible to know for sure what impact badger culling might have, regardless of how widely and for how long the policy is implemented.
Politicians, farmers leaders, and particularly veterinarians, should know better.
Monday 19th October 2015
Badger Trust Accuses Government of Moving the Goalposts on Cull Licences
As the 2015 badger culls come to an end, the Badger Trust has accused the government of attempting to move the goalposts on its failing badger cull policy. DEFRA has just finished the public consultation on proposals to change the cull licence authorisation process, to allow the cull zones to be shrunk whilst allowing private contractors even more time to kill badgers. They also want to tamper with the theoretical area of land available for culling to include land that does not have owner’s consent for killing badgers.
“The benefit of culling badgers has always been very marginal,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “In order to see any reduction at all in cattle TB a strict methodology must be applied or the culls will either not work or actually make the TB situation in cattle worse. The size and shape of the cull zone, and the speed with which culling takes place are all critical to any chance of lowering TB in cattle. To do it properly requires enormous expenditure of money, equipment and personnel.”
“The current licencing conditions are already a dangerous compromise,” continues Dominic Dyer. “To be effective the cull must take place simultaneously over the whole area in less than two weeks, but DEFRA extended this to six weeks at the request of the cull contractors. Despite this they have still failed to achieve their basic targets in both years of culling, even with an extension in the first year.”
“The government has completely misunderstood the scientific complexity of culling,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin. “Their new proposals are designed purely to make life easier for the culling companies and have reduced the culls to a crude numbers-based exercise in killing badgers. DEFRA has lost any right to claim these culls are in any way scientific and is now just making things up as it goes along. We shouldn’t forget that the vast majority of badgers do not even have TB.”
“Any failure to deliver a reduction in cattle TB is not only a waste of taxpayer’s money but also unlawful under the Protection of Badgers Act,” continues Peter Martin. “Under the current licence conditions the culls have conspicuously failed to deliver that objective so any further weakening of them is just a cynical attempt to ‘move the goal posts’ to allow that failure to continue.”
“Instead of caving in to their demands, it’s high time the government recognised that the farming industry is incapable of delivering a properly organised and scientifically effective cull,” concludes Peter Martin. “DEFRA and the government are in full possession of the facts so it is completely irrational for them to continue with culling operations as they are. However, to further weaken the licence conditions is utterly irresponsible and will just lead to more badgers dying and no improvement in cattle TB levels.”
Badgers and bovine TB in England
The culling of badgers is not taking place on National Trust land.
As a major landowner with many farming tenants, the NT understands how devastating an outbreak of bovine TB can be. They have found a practical solution. They ran a successful four year project at Killerton in Devon to see how badger vaccination could be deployed over a large area. They are now working with the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency to make Killerton a national training school for the vaccination of badgers.
The NT says; 'Vaccination needs to be part of the mix of measures needed to tackle bovine TB. We’d like to see the Government working with partners to carry out further testing to show its effectiveness as part of a multi-pronged approach to tackling the disease based on the best available scientific evidence, which includes better testing and surveillance of cattle and stricter biosecurity (i.e. keeping badgers and cattle apart)'.
'We’ve had concerns about how the two pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are being run but their success or failure will only become clear when the four years of the cull are completed. Our concerns mean that we don’t support rolling out culls to other areas which may affect our properties, including the cull in Dorset which began in September 2015, and we aren’t allowing culling on our land. This includes not allowing it on National Trust land that is leased to tenants.'
With regards to badgers and bovine TB in Wales and Northern Ireland theTrust says; 'Culling is only taking place in England. The policy of the Welsh government focuses on more rigorous and frequent testing, the closer control of cattle movements and vaccination of badgers and we’ve been strongly supportive of this approach.'
'In Northern Ireland, we’ve been broadly supportive of the Test, Vaccinate Remove trial and we’re very interested in the outcomes of the five year programme which is designed to provide locally relevant scientific evidence to inform decision making.'
Info from: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356398760842/
The NFU and former Defra Secretary Owen Paterson are claiming the reduction in bTB outbreaks in Somerset and Gloucester, the two culling areas are the result of badger culling. However, these claims are in direct opposition to the science and research of the 10 year RBCT Trial, widely regarded around the world as the leading scientific study in relation to culling badgers.
Professor Lord Krebs who oversaw the RBCT as Chief Scientific advisor to the government said "It’s simply not true that the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have resulted in a decline in TB. The NFU should be more honest with the public and its members.”
Culling badgers is extremely expensive, inhuman and unpopular with the public.

Vaccination Buffer Zone maintained in Somerset Cull zone
Penelope Phillips and Vanessa Mason, with the support of the Badger Trust, have successfully overturned Natural England’s decision to remove the culling buffer zone around their properties in Somerset.
Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason have been vaccinating badgers on their properties since 2012, having decided not to participate in the pilot badger culls based on the evidence that such culls would not reduce bovine TB and were inhumane and ineffective. Given their intention to vaccinate, they requested, and Natural England implemented, a 200-metre buffer zone around their property in order to avoid the unnecessary killing of vaccinated badgers and also to reduce the risk of perturbation of unvaccinated badgers on to their property.
However, in the first half of 2015, and without any consultation, Natural England informed Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason that it intended to remove the buffer zone for the third year of the pilot culls. This put the herd immunity almost certainly achieved on the Phillips/Mason land at serious risk and also meant badgers vaccinated at significant expense were at increased risk of being killed while foraging at night.
Natural England maintained its position following formal pre-action correspondence. However, after proceedings were filed, Natural England agreed just days before the commencement of the culls that the buffer zone would be reinstated and maintained for the duration of the culls.
Ms Mason responded to Natural England’s reversal of its decision:
“While I welcome Natural England’s recognition of the importance of the buffer zone around our properties, I was shocked that Natural England would seek to take a decision to remove the buffer zone without properly consulting with affected landowners who (alongside many volunteers) have expended significant time, effort and money on vaccination. It seems that there was one rule for the cull companies and another for those who had chosen not to participate in the cull. However, now that the buffer zone is back in place, I look forward to re-building a constructive relationship with Natural England in the future.”
Jeff Hayden, the Trust’s Lead on Judicial Challenge, who supported Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason in the legal action, commented:
“While clearly we consider there should be no culling at all given the evidence of failure across the cull zones on all pertinent measures including effectiveness and humaneness, we are pleased that, at the very least, Natural England have recognised the importance of protecting vaccinated badgers from unnecessary death. We would urge all landowners undertaking vaccination projects within the cull zones to seek a buffer zone. While we cannot guarantee Natural England will agree to implement a buffer zone, they have accepted they will consider such applications in accordance with their current policy.”

Somerset County Gazette spends a night out with the Somerset badger cull patrol
The badger cull has to be one of the most divisive issues affecting West Somerset today, and with conflicting information being given by each side of the argument it can be difficult to know what to believe. To try and find out more about the workings of the cull, our reporter Steven Salter went on a night time watch with Somerset Badger Patrol on Sunday, September 27.
I agreed to meet former BBC wildlife documentary maker Amanda Barrett, who will act as my guide for the evening, along with the rest of the monitors at Williton County Council car park at 7.30pm.
The volunteers, clad in high visibility jackets and walking gear, are friendly and clearly very passionate and dedicated toward the cause.
Some were local to West Somerset while others had travelled in from further away, with one couple even coming over from Majorca.
Within minutes it was easy to tell this was a serious and organised operation with high-tech equipment including thermal imaging camera and a night vision device worth thousands of pounds.
Our patrol heads out to Sampford Brett where I am introduced to Alex, one of the monitors who is an expert in the badger persecution cases.
"The monitors are finding an increasing number of snares, and have also seen badger sets being blocked up, both of which are against the terms of the license and breaks the badger protection act," Alex said.
"We come out every night for all six weeks of the cull. It requires a huge amount of work beforehand in terms of preparation, finding the sets, understanding the lie of the land, equipment, etc. It takes a huge toll out of everybody's lives, relationships, jobs.
"The perception of monitors is unfair, we are essentially people from Middle England but the media have painted a different picture."
Our next stop is to meet a couple who own a small farm in West Somerset where the husband has worked in the dairy farming industry for more than 30 years both as a farmer and a consultant.
"I am amazed so many farmers believe it will make a big difference to reducing bovine tuberculosis," he said.
"We have had cattle affected by TB but never thought about going and wiping the badgers out because there were other measures that should be taken first including restriction of movement, more frequent testing and simply better farming practice. Movement restrictions, more frequent testing, better farming practice.
"If they thought there was scientific evidence to justify the cull they would test the badgers before shooting them."
Throughout the night many of themes recur with the patrollers I speak to, regarding the cruelty, cost and inefficiency of the cull and protestors are adamant that the science backs them up.
On the way back my guide Amanda sums up her view: "The government is dismissing scientific evidence which comes and it is disgraceful. Research shows that culling does not significantly reduce outbreaks of the disease in cattle and can even make the situation worse.
"The cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire was meant to be a pilot on the shooting of free ranging badgers overseen by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in 2013. The IEP findings were that the cull is inhumane, inefficient and ineffective. Despite this, the culls continue and it is a travesty."
Interestingly , to try and get both sides of the story The Gazette has offered to go out with the contractors but it seems highly unlikely they will agree to have a reporter join them for a night of culling.

Bovine TB control tactics currently employed by the Welsh and Scottish authorities - which don’t involve badger culling - are leading the way in bTB disease reduction, whilst those employed by England are not, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.
Using publicly available data researchers at Biological and Chemical Sciences were able to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.
Not only did more testing lead to effective control of the disease but further proof of its importance was shown by spikes in infections and infected herds when there were interruptions to testing after the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK.
The team noted that the Scottish programme of risk-based testing had led to the reduction in the number of tests there meaning that testing not only works but is cost-effective. However, the most rapid decline in infections was recorded in Wales since annual or even more frequent testing was applied.
The researchers also found increases in new incidents in the winter months when cattle are more likely to be housed closer together. This will be partly due to the higher number of tests carried out in the winter but it is in line with other evidence showing increases in human TB infections in winter which are attributed to crowding and lower vitamin D levels.
Dr Aristides Moustakas, said: “It is clear that the Welsh policy of frequent testing up to every six months and the Scottish policy of risk-based surveillance are producing reductions in the both the incidence and prevalence of TB in cattle.
Professor Matthew Evans, said: “It is clear that testing cattle frequently is the most effective way of reducing Bovine TB. Farmers and policymakers should not ignore this evidence which is based on the government’s data.”
Humane Society International/UK’s Professor Alastair Macmillan welcomed new research.
Macmillan was formerly at DEFRA (2003-2007) where he led the team which provided scientific advice to government and policy makers on animal health and welfare (and particularly on bovine TB), as well as managed the Bovine TB, Animal Welfare and Endemic Diseases Research Programmes.
Professor Alastair Macmillan, veterinary advisor, Humane Society International/UK, said: "This new paper provides extremely strong evidence of what many experts in veterinary disease control have known for many years - that it is crucial to test cattle as frequently as possible in order to control bovine TB. The Queen Mary researchers have shown without doubt that killing badgers will have little effect, whilst employing the policies of Wales and Scotland, where badgers are not culled, will continue to have a dramatic impact on reducing TB in cattle.
"Frequent cattle testing is particularly important as the sensitivity of currently available diagnostic tests is not very high, meaning that cattle incubating TB are not detected and are allowed to remain in the herd to infect others over the following months. These cattle are by far the most common reason why cattle herds suffer repeated TB breakdowns, not badgers. The government must heed this evidence and stop wasting time and resources on killing badgers to no effect. All efforts must instead be focused on far more frequent cattle testing and strict cattle movement control. How much more research and scientific evidence does this government need before it listens to the rational facts?"
The team at QMUL used publicly available data to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.
www.farminguk.com/News/England-could-eradicate-Bovine-TB-without-culling-new-research-shows_36997. html
LESS than half the farms taking part in the badger cull in Gloucestershire have cattle, Natural England has admitted.
A Freedom of Information request (FoI) to the organisation showed that only 43 per cent of farms in West Gloucestershire taking part in the cull actually contained any cows.
In West Somerset, only 60 per cent of the participating farms have cattle, while in Dorset, it is 70 per cent.
The badger cull in Gloucestershire has been extended to December 18, after the original six-week period only saw 30 per cent of the badger population culled.
The cull was extended to allow the private cull companies to hit their 70 per cent target in the bovine TB (bTB) hotspot.
Protesters against the badger cull have campaigned on the basis that the cull is unscientific, and killing badgers will not bring about a reduction in the disease.
Teams have been out in the cull zone for the last two months, including group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS), which organises wounded badger patrols in parts of the county.
They questioned why improvements in testing of the disease in cattle was not prioritised over the culling of badgers.
Jeanne Berry, spokeswoman for GABS, said: “This latest information highlights the waste in this cull.
“It is a waste of wildlife and the waste of taxpayers money in implementing it.
“Nearly all badgers killed in this cull will be healthy, and this information shows that for the minority that may have had the disease, most were not on a farm where they were a threat to cattle anyway.”
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the cull in Gloucestershire was crucial for controlling the disease.
Statistics from Defra last week showed more than 200 herds in Gloucestershire have been under TB restrictions at the end of August this year.
He added: “West Gloucestershire was chosen as one of the two pilots for a number of reasons, including the severity of the disease in the area.
“The importance of this situation for cattle farmers, their families and their communities cannot be overstated.”
As temperatures are expected to drop closer to freezing this week, the Badger Trust has renewed calls for badgers not to be cage trapped and left to die in the cold.
A Defra spokesman told the Citizen the animals would not be caged from December 1 to avoid exposing them to the harsh weather conditions.
Marksmen will be left to assess if traps should be set from now until December.
She added that guidelines are in place to ensure the suspension of trapping where there is a “risk of extreme exposure”.
Read more: http://www.gloucestercitizen.co.uk/half-Gloucestershire-farms-badger-cull-cattle/story-20094104-detail/story.html#ixzz3lKB6YQnR
Three senior scientists who collectively produced two decades of government research on controlling badgers to reduce bovine TB are among a group of eminent experts to call for an immediate halt to the badger cull. The intervention comes as figures reveal the government has spent nearly £7,000 killing each badger so far.
Professor Lord Krebs, Professor John Bourne and Professor Ranald Munro write of their disappointment that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has extended the controversial cull to Dorset and called on it to immediately reconsider its decision to continue culling badgers.
It is the first time that Munro has publicly criticised the government after he was employed by Defra in 2013 to chair its independent expert panel on the badger cull. The panel concluded that the first year of the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire failed to meet Defra’s own criteria for effectiveness or humaneness.
Badger cull is flawed and must now stop
Letters: The government-appointed independent expert panel (IEP) charged with assessing free shooting in the first year of pilot culls concluded that the method failed to meet criteria for effectiveness or humaneness
Read more
Defra ignored these findings, scrapped the panel and continued the badger cull last year and this year. As the experts’ letter states: “No improvements to humaneness were reported following the second year of culling, leading to the withdrawal of the British Veterinary Association’s support for the method.”
Lord Krebs of Oxford University was originally commissioned by the government to investigate links between badgers and the spread of bovine TB in cattle and his influential report in 1997 led to an eight-year £50m government-funded field trial, in which the impact of culling 10,979 badgers was scientifically monitored in the countryside.
That trial, led by Bourne, concluded in 2007 that culling badgers could “make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”. The experiment showed how culling could make bovine TB worse if it caused the “perturbation effect” whereby killing badgers caused survivors to roam more widely, spreading the disease into new areas.
Despite this, pilot culls were launched by the government in areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire using “controlled shooting” – a method of killing badgers not tested by the rigorous scientific trial, which trapped badgers in cages before shooting them, to minimise suffering and perturbation.
In the letter, the experts stress the “considerable” evidence demonstrating “the central importance of cattle-to-cattle transmission” in the spread of bovine TB.
They write: “Control strategies require wider recognition of other factors, including the limitations of the tuberculin test [which determines whether cattle have bovine TB], more rigid cattle movement controls and heightened on-farm biosecurity. These measures are far more effective at reducing tuberculosis in cattle. Vaccination of both cattle and badgers may also have a role to play.”
In further criticism of the government, Bourne accused Defra of continuing “to either ignore, cherry pick or purposefully misinterpret the science” on badger culling.
He said that while cattle control measures had been strengthened they were still inadequate. “Defra fail to fully appreciate that this is primarily an infectious disease of cattle and that the tuberculin test is very insensitive. As a consequence large numbers of infected cattle remain undiagnosed and perpetuate the disease in infected herds as well as spreading the disease to other cattle herds and wildlife.”
Another signatory of the letter, Professor Alastair MacMillan, veterinary advisor to Humane Society International, said: “Experts agree and the verdict is in: a cull of up to 2,038 badgers in the coming weeks would be inhumane, ineffective and indefensible. It’s long overdue that the government listens to science and reason and ends the badger cull.”
Separately on Wednesday, the Badger Trust published figures released by Defra under a freedom of information request showing that the government had spent £16.8m on the badger culls since 2012, or £6,775 per badger killed.

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.
The DEFRA figures show:
2012 badger cull postponement costs - £2,500,000
2013 badger cull cost - £9,818,000
2014 badger cull cost - £4,459,000
Total costs - £16,777,000
The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.
Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.
“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.
“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”
Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.
“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.
“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”
Notes for Editors:
2012 Cull Cost Postponed:
(Section 4.2 p13)
2013 Cull Cost Year 1 FOI:
2014 Cull Costs Year 2 FOI:
Total Number of Badgers Killed 2013 & 2014:
921 Gloucestershire Year 1
274 Gloucestershire Year 2
940 Somerset Year 1
341 Somerset Year 2
Total killed years 1 & 2 = 2476
Lawyers acting for the Save Me Trust today sent a letter before action to Natural England requiring them to revoke the licences to kill badgers held by the cull operators in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.
Badgers are a protected species. Unless an exception applies, killing a badger is a criminal offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. One exception is when the badger is killed for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease, and the killer has a licence issued by Natural England.
The Government has not sought to repeal or amend the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, so Natural England has to comply with it. It justifies issuing the licences on the grounds that the cull is for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
The scientific consensus is that a badger cull can lead to a slight reduction in the incidence of bovine TB, but only if the cull is carried out professionally and thoroughly, using experienced field staff to trap the badgers in cages before shooting them. Anything less cannot be relied on to reduce the spread of bovine TB, and may well increase it, because the badgers that survive move around more and so have a greater opportunity to catch bovine TB or to pass it on.
Natural England has licenced contactors to shoot badgers in the field. In Gloucestershire and Somerset the contractors have entirely failed to carry out the kind of cull that could be expected to slightly reduce bovine TB, and there is a significant chance that their efforts have caused infections in farmers' herds, not prevented them. There is no reason to believe that their performance will improve this year, nor that the contractor in Dorset, who has just been issued with a licence, will fare any better. This means that the annual cull planned to begin in a matter of days cannot in any rational sense be said to be serving the purpose of preventing the spread of disease. It is therefore unlawful.
Natural England has thus far done the Government's bidding when it comes to issuing licences. The letter from the Save Me Trust sets out the reasons why the cull as it has licenced it cannot with any confidence be said to prevent disease. It also sets out ways in which Natural England has failed in its duty to consult the public before issuing licences.
The Save Me Trust calls on Natural England to do its duty under the legislation and revoke these unlawful licences to kill. This will stop a cull that has so far killed thousands of badgers for no good reason. If Natural England does not revoke the licences, then the Save Me Trust will take legal action to require Natural England to act within the law.
According to the Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mystery-moneybags-steps-offer-farmers-6341556#ICID=sharebar_twitter) animal rights campaigners have announced they may have found a way to stop the controversial badger cull after a mystery benefactor stepped in to offer farmers a cash incentive.
The badger cull licence demands that at least 70% of land in any cull zone is signed up for culling, and if that take-up drops below that figure, then Natural England will cancel the licence.
Documents released by Defra show that the Gloucestershire cull zone has exactly 70% sign up, so the tiniest of smallholders pulling out would end culling permanently.
It is currently costing over £5,000 per badger killed - taking into account the police costs. Much of this is funded by the taxpayer
DEFRA's most recent proposals are out for consultation. They relate to guidance to Natural England on licences to control the risk of bovine tuberculosis from badgers. We believe that there is minimal risk from badgers regarding bovine TB - why waste money on publicly unpopular and difficult policies that do not work?
Basically they want to allow badger culling over smaller areas with reduced % participation without time limit ie totally ignore RBCT advice!
Make your views known at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/bovine-tb/licences-to-control-tb-from-badgers
UK’s leading naturalists and broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall agree.
The Badger Trust has condemned the government’s decision to continue with the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset as ‘completely irrational’.
“These culls were sold to the public as an experiment to see if free-shooting badgers was humane and effective,” says the Badger Trust’s CEO, Dominic Dyer, “and on both counts they have comprehensively failed.”
The government's Independent Expert Panel (IEP) and now the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have condemned free shooting as 'inhumane' . There was a failure to achieve the minimum number of badgers killed in either annual cull in Gloucestershire and in Somerset the second year of culling achieved a much reduced target figure.
“However, the real scandal is that the vast majority of culled badgers will not have had Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB),” continues Dominic Dyer. “The government has insisted that none of them are tested for the disease either before or after they are killed. This means the culling method is not only ‘blind’ but also that there is no way of ever knowing if it has worked.
“Defra’s own data suggest that while 15% of badgers may test positive for bTB, just 1.6% of them are capable of passing on the disease. This means 98.4% pose no risk whatsoever to cattle and 85% are likely to be completely bTB free. Trying to control bTB in cattle by culling badgers that don’t have bTB doesn’t make any sense.”
Two of the UK’s leading naturalists and broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall have joined with the Badger Trust to condemn the government’s decision. “Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea,” says Steve Backshall, whilst Chris Packham has said, “There are plenty of reasons to oppose the culling of badgers but underpinning them all is the fact that the science says, indeed all the scientists say, that it’s the wrong thing to do”.
“The government and the farming lobby are continuing to play the badger blame game in order to mask their failure to properly control this disease,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin, “the Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers”.
The Badger Trust is urging the government to adopt the same approach in England and also to consider the economics of the cull. “Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million,” continues Peter Martin, “it’s the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. And to what effect? Culling badgers costs ten times more than vaccinating them”.
“To cap it all,” concludes Dominic Dyer, “Defra’s latest figures [1] show TB incidents in and around the cull zones are actually increasing. This was predicted not just by the scientists but was also highlighted as a serious concern in the government’s own risk assessments. Taking all these factors into consideration, their decision to carry on culling badgers is completely irrational”.
"DEFRA’s December 2011 policy on badger culling confirmed that it will be necessary to undertake a further cost/benefit analysis before rolling out culling beyond the two pilot areas (paragraph 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.’
“As far as we are aware, no such cost/benefit analysis has yet been undertaken, and it is not clear how it could be undertaken until the conclusion of the pilot culls.
“The decision to extend the badger cull to Dorset in particular has no scientific justification as the County has seen one of the largest declines in bTB rates in England with a 37.25% drop between 2012 to 2014 without killing any badgers.”
1. http://www.ibtb.co.uk/?dm_i=1NFN,3LWFI,J7O91H,CYQVA,1
Dorset's Defra Stats clearly show show that cattle measures are working, so surely there is no need for an unpopular and expensive badger cull?.
Between January 2012 and December 2014:
- New incidents of bTB have dropped by 12%
- Herds under restriction have dropped by 13%
- The number of bTB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25%t, and
- Of the 31,733 infected cattle slaughtered last year, Dorset accounted for a tiny 2.3%.
Farmers have been warned that damaging badger setts does not reduce the risk of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and could make the problem worse. The warning is from a recent report from researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, who carried out the first study into the effects of illegal badger persecution.
About 5% of setts in Northern Ireland had recent signs of illegal damage.
The study found that this practice "contributed significantly to new bovine TB breakdowns in nearby cattle".
Herd-level bovine tuberculosis risk factors: assessing the role
of low-level badger population disturbance (in Ireland)
Received: 25 November 2014
Accepted: 13 July 2015
Bovine TB (bTB) is endemic in Irish cattle and has eluded eradication despite considerable expenditure, amid debate over the relative roles of badgers and cattle in disease transmission. Using a comprehensive dataset from Northern Ireland (>10,000 km2; 29,513 cattle herds), we investigated interactions between host populations in one of the first large-scale risk factor analyses for new herd breakdowns to combine data on both species. Cattle risk factors (movements, international imports, bTB history, neighbours with bTB) were more strongly associated with herd risk than area-level measures of badger social group density, habitat suitability or persecution (sett disturbance). Highest risks were in areas of high badger social group density and high rates of persecution, potentially representing both responsive persecution of badgers in high cattle risk areas and effects of persecution on cattle bTB risk through badger social group disruption. Average badger persecution was associated with reduced cattle bTB risk (compared with high persecution areas), so persecution may contribute towards sustaining bTB hotspots; findings with important implications for existing and planned disease control programmes.

Despite all the evidence against culling and all the expenses involved the government is set to continue with its misleading information and support for this very unpopular policy. There was a very high turn out for this peaceful protest in Somerset recently.
There are many in the current government that believe the current badger culling policy is not cost effective or humane as this latest press release from Blue Badger confirms. So, will the government heed their call to halt future culling? We will see.
Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and Founder of Blue Badger urge the Government to abandon the badger culls
The news that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset look set to continue this year was condemned by the Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and the Founder of Blue Badger.
Suzy Gale, Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and Lorraine Platt of Blue Badger said: “It is very disappointing that the culls look set to continue despite Natural England's own Scientific Advisor branding the badger culls ' an epic failure'. The Government's own Independent Expert Panel showed that the pilot culls were both ineffective and inhumane.”
Lorraine Platt added: “The Government is so desperate to be seen to be doing something to control bovine TB but it should not ignore the science and facts against the badger cull. We call for England to follow Wales’s successful example of tackling bovine TB by focusing on cattle control measures and vaccinating badgers in the high risk TB areas.
Eminent scientists have spoken out against the cull because it will not significantly reduce incidents of bovine TB. The Labour Government culled over 11,000 badgers at a cost of around £50 million pounds over many years, only for the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) report of 2007 to conclude that culling badgers makes no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.
The present Government does not need to futilely repeat badger culling and should learn from the ISG scientific Report conclusion that the rising incidence of TB disease can be reversed and geographical spread contained by the rigid application of cattle control measures alone.
The badger cull has been a disaster and has cost millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money which amounts to thousands of pounds per dead badger. Nearly all the killed badgers will not have bovine TB and the government has refused to test any of the badgers killed in the pilot zones for the last two years.
Twenty Conservative MP's signed Anne Main’s letter to former Minister Owen Paterson in 2013 of their concern of the considerable anxiety within the party about the pilot badger culls in England. The letter stated:
‘There is a need to keep Parliament informed of the results once the trial period has finished and before any decision is made on future culls.’ The letter called for any wider cull to be subject to a vote.
Sadly, for our Farmers, cattle and wildlife, the scientific advice has still not been heeded by Ministers and once again a pointless unnecessary cull looks likely to continue. We all have a vested interest in the correct and long term control of bovine TB. Culling badgers is not the solution. The solution lies in if the government will finally listen to sound science and focus on cattle based measures instead of badger culling as scientists have advised for many years. This disastrous policy has to end.”

A few days ago the NFU announced it had formally requested Natural England for licences to cull badgers in Dorset. This is supposedly to control bovine TB. But are Natural England, Defra, the media and Dorset’s pro-culling farmers taking any notice of the figures that demonstrate how unnecessary a cull would be? No.
Let’s be clear, bovine TB is a problem, and for various reasons has increased in our herds since it was almost eradicated in the 1960s. But it infects maybe 0.4 percent of cattle in the United Kingdom. Many more cattle are needlessly slaughtered because of lameness, mastitis and other problems, a result of the demands we make on the animals.
The NFU has long been a champion of culling badgers. Though they state that ‘dealing with the problem in wildlife’ is just one of the many ‘tools in the box’ being used to control bTB, they don’t seem too keen on using those controls. As we shall see.
In 2012 Dorset farmer Paul Gould became chair of the Dorset branch of the NFU. He immediately called for a badger cull, since when there has been a constant stream of ‘news’ releases from him in the local media. This became manic when his own herd fell victim to bTB in April 2014. The NFU Chair Meurig Raymond visited his farm and between them they sold the story that only the badgers must have been the source of the disease.
But were badgers the source? Jay Tiernan and Stop the Cull did some research. They found that:
• Gould’s herd had tested free 6 months later
• That a neighbouring farm had had a bTB breakdown a few months before
• That the neighbour’s cattle used fields adjacent to Gould’s fields. Both herds could have had nose-to-nose contact.
• Both farms are now clear of bTB without culling badgers.
Naturally, none of this was mentioned by the NFU. Equally naturally, Mr Gould will be in charge of any badger cull that takes place.
Gould’s successor at Dorset NFU, Trevor Cligg, is just as keen for a cull, and has carried on the disinformation campaign to persuade Dorset how necessary a badger cull is. Considering how easy it is to disprove what he says, it is remarkable that he has been allowed to get away with such outrageous statements. For example:
In May this year, at an Environment & Wildlife general election hustings, he claimed that bovine TB was ‘rife’ in Dorset. In July on Radio Solent he said that “there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers.” No studies have been done that support this. Dorset’s badger vaccinators confirm they have never seen any diseased badgers, and that countrywide there has only been one incident of vaccinators calling out a vet – for a badger with a broken leg,
In August he claimed that “cases of TB have increased more in Dorset than any other part of the country in the last three years.” When challenged on this he said he was “using Animal and Plant Health Agency statistics”. But these are the figures which form Defra's bTB statistics, updated every month. And what do they say?
In 2014 a total of 31,733 TB-infected cattle were slaughtered in the UK. Dorset contributed all of 744 to that number, a tiny 2.3 percent. The total slaughtered in the Western Region was 17,017. Dorset’s share was 4.37 percent. How ‘rife’ is that?
Compared to this, the slaughter rates for Somerset were 1,576; for Gloucester 1,153; for Devon 5,861; and Cornwall 2,875.
As annual testing is now the norm for the Western region, the number of bTB tests on Dorset cattle has almost doubled since 2008. Between January 2012 and December 2014, this has resulted in:
• new incidents of bTB having dropped by 12 percent
• herds under restriction having dropped by 13 percent
• and the number of TB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25 percent
All of this has been achieved without culling badgers. One should also point out that for almost all the Western Region counties, the slaughter rate has dropped over the same period, although in Somerset there are sight signs of an increase because of perturbation of the badger population, due to – badger culling!
These figures are totally at odds with what Trevor Cligg and the NFU have been claiming, and they prove that there is no justification for a badger cull in Dorset (or, I would add, anywhere else).
And what of all the other measures that can reduce bTB, like annual testing, strict bio-security on farms and markets, and strict cattle movement controls? How good are Paul Gould and Trevor Cligg at implementing the bio-security measures as advised by Defra? These would include fencing off badger setts, preventing wildlife access to farm buildings, and double-fencing fields to prevent physical contact between cattle.
Sarah King from Badger Guardians pointed to standards of bio-security on Paul Gould’s farm. “Mr Gould said on TV he’d done everything possible to keep badgers away from his cows. But this isn’t correct. Some of his cattle sheds are open to any wildlife which wants to wander in and badger setts on his farm haven’t been fenced off. He’s ignoring Defra’s key recommendations for minimising contact between badgers and cattle.”
And her colleague Andy Hamilton confirmed cattle belonging to Gould’s neighbour were still using fields next to Gould’s, and that no double fencing had been installed. He added that he had walked past Trevor Cligg’s farm just over a month ago. "No attempt had been made to prevent wildlife entering calf pens, clearly visible from the public road. Since neither past nor present Dorset NFU Chairmen has adopted Defra’s simplest recommendations it suggests they don’t believe badgers spread TB.”
Lesley Docksey © 09/08/15
Steve Backshall speaks out to oppose further culling
Stop ignoring science and killing badgers to keep certain lobbies happy says naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall
As the government prepares to make a decision on the continuation and possible extension of its highly controversial badger culling policy, leading naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall has given his support to the Badger Trust in opposing any more killing of badgers.
In a film exclusively produced for the Badger Trust Steve Backshall said:
"Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea.
Science is how the modern world works , it’s how our cars drive and how our smart phones work. Relying on the scientific method is what makes our world go round.
“The way the government is doing things at the moment, small scale badly organised badger culls, is making the problem of bovine TB worse, this has been proven by science.
“The only way you can really effectively contain bovine TB is not through badger culling, but by improved animal husbandry and through the development of a cattle vaccine."
Responding to the film the CEO of the Badger Trust said:
"We are hugely grateful to Steve Backshall for using his expertise and influence to support our campaign to stop the badger cull, which has been a disastrous failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.
“Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. However, the real scandal is that nearly all the badgers killed will not have had TB. Defra’s own data suggests just 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease whilst 85% are likely to have been completely TB free*. The government’s continued refusal to test the badgers for TB not only makes this a ‘blind’ cull but also means we will never be able to say whether it has worked.
“The pilot culls were set up to test the efficiency and humaneness of free shooting of badgers at night by trained marksmen. On this basis they have also been a failure, as free shooting has proved highly ineffective and has been found to be inhumane by both the government's own Independent Expert Panel and more recently the British Veterinary Association.
“The only way to beat bovine TB is to stop playing the badger blame game and to follow the Welsh Government approach, by focusing on disease control in cattle.
“The Chief Vet in Wales recently announced that new incidents of TB in cattle in Wales had fallen by 28% resulting in a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered for TB. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of TB, without the culling of any badgers.”
The Steve Backshall film can be viewed on the following YouTube link
* Note for editors: Figures from RBCT data found that while15% of badgers reacted positive to a TB test only 1.6% were excreting the disease sufficiently to pass it on. The government has refused to test badgers for TB either before or after culling rendering it impossible to assess whether the cull has been successful or not.
Here we go again ... in a very biased BBC Radio Solent report broadcast 29/7/15 we were told Dorset NFU have applied for a cull license. Radio Solent apparently contacted DBVP and DBBW requesting an interview. This was then confirmed by Trevor Cligg, Dorset NFU Chair during the broadcast.
Sue from the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project was given a short interview. Karin from DBBW had also been interviewed and was on standby to speak but she wasn't given any air time.
On the other hand Trevor Cligg, Dorset NFU Chair was given a lot of time to make unsubstantiated claims about 'increases' in TB in Dorset and that there are 'significant levels of TB in Dorset's badger population.'
Complaints have been made about this 'unbalanced' report as follows:
Re: NFU application for a badger cull in Dorset.
1. Trevor Cligg said that there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers. Where does he get this information? – there have been no studies of the level of TB in Dorset’s badgers. Scientific studies have shown that 95% of bovine TB is spread cattle to cattle – only about 5% is due to other factors. There is no evidence that badgers spread TB to cattle, in fact studies have shown that badgers avoid going near cattle.
2. He also said that the rate of increase of TB in Dorset is worse than anywhere else in the country. – Defra’s own statistics show that over the last 2 years the number of cattle slaughtered in Dorset due to TB has decreased by 37.25%. This has been achieved by annual cattle testing, using more accurate tests, and stricter cattle movement controls. There has been no badger culling in Dorset. It is possible that Trevor Cligg is quoting the number of new herd incidences in Dorset – the reason that this has increased is because of the more frequent and accurate tests – they are detecting cattle with TB that were previously missed.
See also:
Cattle TB Vaccination Workshop Report from 2012. What progress has been made? What has happened to the trials? Isn't this more important than wasting more and more time and money on culling badgers?
94% of Welsh cattle are free from bovine TB, says chief vet of Wales - and no badgers have ben culled!
Various measures against the spread of TB in cattle are starting to show results, according to the chief veterinary officer for Wales but it is apparently too early to determine the impact of the badger vaccination programmes in Pembrokeshire. The five-year badger vaccination programme has one year remaining, with results not expected for another two years.
The Chief Vet said that the cost of badger vaccination could be reduced by providing grants to farmers and landowners to carry out some of the labour work themselves.
She said: "TB is expensive. This year we're spending £25m in Wales on cattle testing, on compensation to farmers, on breakdown management, on a new programme we're rolling out to get private vets more involved in supporting their clients.
"So against that backdrop the notion that vaccinating badgers is expensive, it's just one piece of the whole programme."
The most expensive part of vaccinating badgers was labour - walking fields, finding the badgers and catching them.
"If the farmer could put in some of the labour, or the landowner, then actually some of that cost gets chopped away," she said.
But, if badgers can be vaccinated, why can't cattle? The existing excuses just don't ring true!

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