1 September 2013 by Stuart Winter
THOUSANDS of culled badgers will be thrown into incinerators without any checks to see whether they were killed humanely or were suffering from disease.
The lack of forensic checks on the 5,000 animals being shot was last night highlighted as the most serious flaw in the Government’s controversial operation to tackle tuberculosis. As gunmen began shooting badgers in two West Country killing zones last week, it has been revealed that only 120 animals out of 5,000 will undergo post mortem examinations to see whether they have been dispatched humanely. The rest will be incinerated.
Opponents of the cull say the carnage means any scientific evidence that could help unravel how the disease is being spread in the countryside will be destroyed. There is growing belief among anti-cull campaigners that the Government could be forced into a U-turn once the current trials end. More than 288,000 people have signed Queen guitarist Brian May’s Stop The Badger Cull e-petition, which could force a parliamentary debate.
There are plans to roll out badger culls at a further 10 sites across England if the pilot schemes in Somerset and Gloucestershire are deemed successful by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Defra has confirmed that it will examine the carcasses of only 120 badgers shot in the current cull, an admission that angered animal welfare groups.
Dominic Dyer, policy adviser for Care for the Wild, condemned Defra’s decision, saying vital scientific evidence about bovine TB was being destroyed. He explained: “Besides losing evidence on how the badgers were shot and how they might have suffered, we are also losing the opportunity to carry out DNA and blood tests to understand more about the transmission of the disease, what strains are involved and how it might vary between regions. This is not only a great loss to science but also means that it does not allow for a proper scientific debate. Basically, the Government has decided with the farming industry that it wants no more debate but just wants to get on and kill the animals. It’s a numbers game.”
The Government is committed to wiping out bovine TB which last year led to more than 37,000 cattle being slaughtered at a cost to taxpayers of £100million.
<image003.jpg>More than 288,000 people have signed Queen guitarist Brian May’s Stop The Badger Cull e-petition.
Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International UK, said the cull was “politically motivated, bereft of scientific credibility, morally bankrupt and will do little to help farmers”.
He added: “It also seems that the Government is doing little to monitor the cull. We are told the pilot culls are designed to see how effective, humane and safe the shooting of free-roaming badgers proves to be, so that informed decisions can be made on whether the policy should be rolled out. However, the Government has consistently refused to release all but the sketchiest information on how ‘humaneness’ will be assessed, and is not even intending to test the badgers that are killed to see if they were carrying the infection. Thousands of innocent badgers are set to suffer and die and all for little or no benefit to anyone. This travesty should be stopped.”
Robbie Marsland, UK director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “How can the Government press ahead with such a divisive and contentious issue and attempt to cloak the operation in secrecy? It is vital that Parliament reviews this cull at the first opportunity and we encourage everyone to contact their MPs.”
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said:”The government are not testing badger carcasses for tb as previous culls have shown that the majority of animals killed will be healthy. They also know that scientists have warned that culling if done badly can actually spread bovine tb. Ministers aren’t interested in the science as they have already made up their minds.”
Defra said: “We already have evidence from previous trials that a significant number of badgers in hot spot areas have bovine TB.”