Exclusive: Brian May blasts Government for wasting millions on “insane” Badger Cull


Brian, having spoken with Jane Mathews earlier this afternoon, the Express runs this story top of front page in the most updated online edition.

Animal rights campaigners says £7m badger cull was “disastrous” waste of government money.

ROCK star Brian May has launched a blistering attack on the government in the wake of figures which claim the controversial badger cull has cost the public over £7m – more than £4,000 per dead animal. 7 January 2014 by Jane Mathews

Brian May at Bristol rally
Brian May has accused the government of ignoring scientific evidence on badger culling [GETTY]

The people that suffer most are the farmers and the public who are actually paying for this, as our countryside is destroyed by a government that used to call themselves green.
Brian May

The Queen guitarist and environmental campaigner accused Environment Secretary Owen Paterson of ignoring scientific evidence which proves that culling badgers does not stop the spread of bovine TB and may even make the problem worse. And he said that the government should have focused its efforts on developing a vaccine against the disease instead of slaughtering badgers.

His comments come as new figures from Care for the Wild claim that the controversial pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire cost £4,121 for every badger killed.

There are also doubts amongst the scientific community as to whether the cull shave been successful in tackling bovine TB.

Mr [Dr] May, who also has a PhD in astrophysics, said: “More than £7m of taxpayers’ money spent on this is an absolute disaster. It’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t work and may have made the problem worse. Most experts say the level they have culled at is exactly the level that increases the spread of the disease. They are destroying families of badgers which are stable and don’t move very far. The surviving badgers then run, and if they are infected with the disease they will spread it. It’s angering people not only in the culling zone but around it as well.”

The guitarist called the culls “a tragedy” [EPA]

The pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire aimed to kill 70 per cent of the badger population in a bid to curb TB in cattle.

According to the figures from Care for the Wild, £2.6m was spent policing the culls, farmers’ costs were £1.49m, and the cost to the government was £3.2m. The figures are higher than anticipated, despite less badgers than intended being killed.

The Gloucestershire cull ended early after missing targets, while the Somerset cull also failed to reach targets despite being extended from six to nine weeks.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson claimed in October that the target had not been reached because the badgers “moved the goalposts”, adding: “We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.”

Referring to Mr Paterson, Mr [Dr] May said: “He’s supposed to be the man protecting the environment of this beautiful country of ours, and every move he makes is destroying it. He is saying that badgers are worth more dead than alive. This man has to be removed. He is peddling insane policies which are costing insane amounts of money.”

Mr May also accused the government of ignoring the results of a 10-year trial into badger culling by Lord Krebs, which concluded that large-scale culling of badgers had only a ‘modest effect’ in reducing TB in cattle. Mr May said that the government had wasted an opportunity to license an effective vaccine to protect cattle and badgers from TB, pointing out that the process would take ten years as opposed to culling, a process which could last as long as 25 years.

He said: “The government should be pushing to get the cattle vaccination up and running. The vaccine is there and it’s effective but it needs to be put through the proper trials. The trials to get it licensed in England have not been done. There was a ten year trial on badger culling, but there should have been a ten year trial on cattle vaccination instead. The public should be angry and the farmers should be angry that we haven’t pushed for this in Europe. I think it’s a scandal. The future is bright with a vaccine, but bloody and black with culling. The people that suffer most are the farmers and the public who are actually paying for this, as our countryside is destroyed by a government that used to call themselves green. It’s a tragedy.”

Care for the Wild, who said that 1,771 badgers were slaughtered during the pilot, accused the government of delivering one of the most “disastrous and expensive wildlife culls in history” as it revealed the costs. However, Avon and Somerset police and Gloucestershire police have refused to confirm the figures, saying they do not have the most up-to-date costs available.

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said the government “has wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which has no scientific, animal welfare or economic justification and was carried out in an outrageously sloppy manner which would have been laughable if it hadn’t cost so many badgers’ lives.”

John Evans, spokesman for Save the Badger, said: “Obviously, this is a total waste of taxpayers’ money and a token gesture towards the farmers, and it isn’t going to solve the problem.”If you kill all the badgers in one area, all the badgers from other areas will just move in instead, so animals are suffering for no reason. It’s hard to believe that we are acting in this way towards our wildlife. Vaccination is the only long term solution to the problem.”

Defra said the costs of the badger cull pilots “are vastly outweighed by the impact that bovine TB is having on our farming industry and taxpayers”. A spokesperson said: “Each bovine TB cattle outbreak costs an average £34,000, and if left unchecked this disease will cost the taxpayer £1bn over the next 10 years.”

The National Farmers’ Union also defended the figures. A spokesperson said: “If marksmen had been allowed to go about their lawful business, there wouldn’t have been any policing costs.”

In October, Sir David Attenborough also spoke out against the culls. He said: “Why do they spend a lot of time and money doing careful scientific studies and then simply ignore the results? They decided to have a six-week [cull] and when they don’t get the result they want, they want to extend. It is simply not believing in the science.”

The UK’s biggest private landowner, the National Trust, has also questioned the “scientific rigor” of the pilot scheme.