Claims by Prime Minister David Cameron and newly appointed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson that the planned slaughter of badgers will lead to a healthier species, are absurd, says the Badger Trust and should be withdrawn and binned.

Speaking to news reporters covering the Conservative annual conference Mr Cameron said he was convinced a cull of badgers to tackle bovine tuberculosis in cattle was the right thing to do and he went on “…I believe this is the right policy for healthy badgers as well as healthy cattle.”

Addressing the conference Mr Paterson said the disease would get worse if the Coalition followed the “cowardly inaction” pursued by Labour in government. “We have to use every tool at our disposal and that’s why we’re trialling a badger cull. We need healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle.”

Both claims are patently absurd, says the Badger Trust. The pilot culls and the planned subsequent prolonged culls are non selective and will destroy mostly healthy local badger populations. That is beyond question.

It is not possible to take out only diseased animals. The indisputable facts are that thousands of healthy badgers making no contribution to disease spread will die or be critically wounded. The research the Government cherry picks to try to justify its onslaught on badgers shows that even in TB hotspots most badgers are not infected [1].

What’s more, that same exhaustive programme of research (the Randomised Badger Culling Trials overseen by the Independent Scientific Group) concluded that the prevalence of disease in badgers which survived the culls was HIGHER than before the culls began.

David Williams, Badger Trust chairman, commented: “It beggars belief that the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary can claim that culling is in some way good for badgers, that killing them by the thousand will somehow result in healthy badger populations. Let them explain how they have reached this astonishing conclusion, one that the Prime Minster also made on Countryfile. If they can’t, and we are sure they will be unable to, they should apologise–the Prime Minster, through the aides who have briefed him so badly, and Mr Paterson because he must know better.

“With every passing week the case put forward for a badger cull is collapsing around the Government’s ears. They should listen, think again and abandon this provocative counter-productive plan, one that Lords Krebs described as crazy.”

[1] ISG final report 2007. The overall prevalence of M. Bovis infection in proactively culled badgers was 16.6 per cent and in road killed badgers 15 per cent.

Jack Reedy