17 September 2013
Bit by bit, day by day the badger pilot culls are being exposed for what they are, a sham– an exercise in secrecy, deceit, and incompetence, says the Badger Trust.
Trumpeted by Defra and Secretary of State Owen Paterson as an objective science-driven assessment of the safety, efficacy and humaneness of night shooting they have now been shown in their true light, a costly shambles, a politically driven charade in which the ultimate decisions on their humaneness and effectiveness will be made not objectively by independent experts but subjectively by ministers.
The latest revelation comes in an admission (1) from the Government Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens, that DEFRA has no hard and fast rules on what constitutes a humane kill or on how they will decide if the cull has been a success on humaneness grounds. He said this meant the final decision had to be taken by ministers rather than the independent panel of vets and scientists advising them.
Says Badger Trust chairman Dave Williams: “This is scandalous. It’s akin to an accused man in court being judge and jury. For the public to have any faith in the outcome of these widely condemned trials the verdict has to be dispassionate, objective and expert.
“Owen Paterson fails on all three counts. He has driven the campaign to slaughter over 100,000 badgers. He claims to care about badgers but admits he would like to see their legal protection removed. He has ignored the overwhelming opposition of independent scientific opinion.
“He promised robust monitoring of the pilot culls. But we learn that the six-week trials will be overseen by only a handful of monitors and that only a tiny number of carcasses will be examined by experts to assess slaughter efficiency and humaneness. It also seems apparent that the number of badgers so far killed falls far short of the licence targets.
“This is an ill conceived, cruel and futile DIY culling campaign that exposes farmers to public hostility and which even if successful would barely dent the bovine TB problem. The e-petition opposing it reached a record-breaking 303,000, and the growing support in parliament for the early day motion calling on the Government to have a further debate in Westminster once the pilot culls are completed –and before any decisions are taken on a national cull policy—is a clear sign that more and more MPs, forced by whips to toe the line in the last debate, are increasingly critical of this unpopular policy.
“Along with hundreds of thousands of conservationists and people who care about wildlife Badger Trust says it’s time to call off the culls, back vaccination, and to rigorously enforce the new cattle-based measures.”
(1) The Times, online, September 17