17 October 2013
The Prime Minister, the Defra Secretary of State and the National Farmers’ Union are wallowing in even more confusion over killing badgers. Every day brings more news of muddle in their misguided methods.
• The requested massive extension of the killing period widely reported for Gloucestershire more than doubles the original six weeks to 14. This is yet another contemptuous and wilful swipe against science following an extension and gerrymandering with badger populations in Somerset presided over by Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
• Extensions of the time allowed for killing risk an even lower benefit by splitting up the culling areas into too many sectors, which may cause more disruption of the badger population and therefore a higher prevalence of bTB . The keynote Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT)  emphasised that any culling would have to be done quickly across the areas – 12 days in that case against the six weeks in the licences for the current “pilot” culls and the nine and fourteen now contemplated.
• The Coalition’s allies in the National Farmers’ Union are restive – from its reportedly embattled president to the farmers and landowners who could face a massive bill from the Coalition.
• A U-Gov poll has shown an almost three-to-one verdict against badger culling .
• Now there is open discussion of gassing and even snaring – both grossly inhumane – in thrashing about to find a cheap and nasty way of attacking a hitherto protected species.
Killing badgers is a sideshow
The Badger Trust again calls for a sense of proportion: killing badgers is at best a sideshow. It can make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of bTB in Great Britain, according to the RBCT. The real answer should be vaccination of cattle when available and the rigorous application of measures of the kind the cattle industry resisted for 20 years, but which have now been imposed only this year by the European Union.
The current pilot trials have already been claimed to cause a substantial increase in illegal killing. There can be no doubt that persecution of badgers will escalate. The licences are seen by some as a green light to slaughter badgers. Owen Paterson would like the legal protection of badgers to be removed and has also said that in order to eradicate bTB, hard culling of badgers will be required for the next 25 years.
NOTES  Woodroffe et al (2006), Control efforts influence tuberculosis risk for badgers, National Academy of Sciences, USA, page 36.
 Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence
 Voters take vaccination vs cull into account re parliamentary candidates
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