Government Chief Vet admits he can’t define what’s a ‘humane’ kill of badgers


14 September 2013 by Owen Bennett in Brighton

ANIMAL welfare campaigners tonight called for an immediate end to the controversial badger cull after the Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer admitted there is “no definitive criteria” for measuring how humane the current pilot operations are.

Save The Badgers placard on farm gate
The Government’s badger cull has been heavily criticised

Express Online has obtained a copy of a letter written from chief vet Nigel Gibbens in which he has admitted that ministers will have no hard and fast rules on what constitutes a humane kill when they come to decide whether the pilot badger cull has been a success.

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has previously insisted any decision to roll the pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire out nationwide will significantly depend on whether killings have been humane. Defra has sanctioned the night-time shooting of badgers in the two cull zones, but the Guardian reported yesterday that so few have been killed to date, the entire project in its current format is under threat. It reported that officials have even discussed using gassing as a more effective culling method.

Brian May
The campaign has been led by Queen guitarist Brian May

However, such a move would provoke even more fury from welfare campaigners. The Green Party is due to raise an emergency motion on the matter at its annual conference in Brighton tomorrow. They are deeply concerned by a letter sent by Mr Gibbens to the Humane Society International UK on Thursday in which he tried to outline how the cull will be assessed.

He wrote: “Ministers will have access to advice from individuals with expertise in these areas [animal welfare and veterinary pathology]. The independent panel includes individuals with such expertise, who will assess the results of the monitoring and report to Ministers. There are, however, no definitive criteria for determining humaneness in this context.”

Green Party spokesman on animal issues Caroline Allen, who is a vet, demanded an immediate halt to the cull.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson believes the cull could eradicate bovine TB

She said: “They don’t know how they are going to measure humaneness, so they are not going to be meeting a key objective of the cull. I think as the Government’s chief vet you have to take the welfare of the animals very seriously, and it seems he has neglected to do that.”

There have been a number of high profile protests against the badger cull, and the campaign has been spearheaded by Queen guitarist Brian May.

Backers of the cull include the National Farmers Union, and last month its president Peter Kendall admitted the cull was “controversial” but added it was needed to deal with the “misery” of dealing with TB on farms.

In a letter to members, Mr Kendall wrote: “I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with TB on farm – some of you for decades – and I hope now you will feel that something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers. Badger control remains a controversial subject and we understand that some people will never agree with controlling badgers in this way. I am confident however that through the combined efforts of farmers, the NFU and government over the last year to illustrate the impact TB has on farms, and the scientific basis for badger control, more people than ever recognise the need to address the disease in badgers.”

Defra insists the cull is vital for preventing the spread of bovine TB in the countryside.