BADGER CULLS WERE ‘CRUEL’ AND ‘INEFFECTIVE’, SAYS INDEPENDENT PANEL
28 February 2014 – James Arsfield
An independent study of pilot badger culls is said to have concluded that they were ineffective and too many animals suffered. Research commissioned by the Government found that the number of badgers killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire fell short of targets set to limit the spread of TB in cattle. More than 5 per cent of badgers took longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness, according to the BBC.
The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to evaluate the pilots. Marksmen were brought in to shoot the animals at night, with the aim of killing at least 70% in cull areas within a six-week period.
The duration was extended after initial figures suggested that just 58 per cent of badgers were eradicated in the Somerset scheme and 30 per cent in Gloucestershire. However, the independent panel is reported to have found that less than half of badgers were killed in both areas during the first six weeks.
Defra had also agreed that the standard for declaring the culls humane would be 95 per cent of the shot badgers dying within five minutes. But the expert group has apparently concluded that between 6.4 per cent and 18 per cent of animals exceeded that limit, depending on the assumptions made. No date has yet been set for the report to be published.
Leading activist Brian May said:
“We should also mention that the report discovered that it was very inhumane as well. I don’t think people will stand for this. You’re talking about badgers taking five or 10 minutes to die. Owen Paterson’s denied that but it’s obviously true.”
The guitarist with rock band Queen told BBC Breakfast that he had “a lot of sympathy for farmers”, but added: “This is not the way to solve the problem. The way we believe we can solve it is by vaccinating the badgers, and also vaccinating the cows.” May said badgers can be vaccinated for “about £120 a head”, and added that it has “just cost £4,200 per badger to kill the poor things”.
Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said:
“It is important to remember that these culls were pilots precisely because the Government needed to test the humaneness, safety and efficacy of controlled shooting as a method of culling badgers. Indeed, BVA called for controlled shooting to be tested and critically evaluated before it was rolled out. We are unable to comment in detail on the findings of the IEP until we have seen the report and had time to review all of the information but, if these figures are true, then they would certainly raise concerns about both the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting. We will look at the published report in detail and consider BVA’s position in light of the IEP’s findings. We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll-out of the method of controlled shooting.”
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy adviser to animal charity Care For The Wild, which has campaigned against the cull, said:
“Anyone who has scrutinised the disastrous badger culls will have hoped for, and expected, an independent report to come up with this result – that the culls failed completely on both efficiency and humaneness grounds.”
He called on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene to stop the cull, which he said had been introduced for political, not practical, reasons. He said the pilot culls had probably cost more than £10 million, or £4,000 per badger, and could increase the risk of TB in cattle as badgers moved around more following culling. Shooting of free-running badgers in the cull had been shown to be a failure, he added. He also said many badgers could have been left to die long painful deaths as a result of a lack of effective monitoring for humaneness.
“The badger cull pilots have been a complete failure on scientific, economic and animal welfare grounds, and now the independent expert panel has reached this conclusion, all future plans to cull badgers should be stopped immediately,” he said.
A spokesman for the Environment Department (Defra) said: “The Independent Expert Panel has not submitted its report to ministers and the report has not been published. We knew there’d be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls which is why we’re looking forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations for improving the way they are carried out, because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease.”
The panel was appointed to look at the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of “controlled shooting” – shooting free running badgers, as opposed to those which are cage-trapped and then shot – as a culling method.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that only 24 per cent of the badgers estimated to be in the two pilot areas were killed by controlled shooting in the original six-week period of the cull.
Farmers and the Government insist a cull of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is necessary as part of a package of measures to tackle the disease in livestock. But opponents of the cull have claimed for years that it would be ineffective and inhumane and have called for tighter measures on farms and vaccination of both badgers and cattle to tackle TB.
Wildlife film-maker and presenter Simon King, the Wildlife Trusts’ president, said:
“The culls were flawed from the beginning and this seems to be concrete proof. We look forward to the cessation of all rhetoric that culling should continue. We need to deal with bovine tuberculosis in a practical and meaningful way to support the farming community.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said:
“Now that its own research has demonstrated that culling is cruel as well as pointless, it’s time for the Government to heed the evidence and end this failed policy once and for all. Scientists have long been telling us that culling was going to fail on grounds of both humaneness and effectiveness. Bovine TB is a serious problem and we need new, effective ways of dealing with it. Strategies based on vaccination, improved biosecurity and stricter controls on the movement of cattle were always going to offer more hope than culling, which has caused unnecessary suffering to animals, as well as wasting huge amounts of public money.”
Monitoring by government agency Natural England, which has been released following a Freedom of Information request, revealed that some badgers were shot in the head, neck and shoulder, against best practice, or took more than one shot to be killed. In one instance among 41 visits to check that those carrying out the cull were adhering to their licence conditions, it took five to 10 minutes to administer the second, fatal, shot to a wounded badger. In some cases contractors did not take biosecurity precautions such as wearing masks or gloves, or using disinfectant.
Veterinarian Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, said:
“While the level of observation of controlled shoots was clearly inadequate, if the proportion of poor shot placement and wounding observed is in any way representative of the shooting as a whole, we could potentially be looking at hundreds of badgers enduring pain and distress. Indeed, if wounding, incorrect kill shots and biosecurity breaches were recorded when the shooters were being monitored and arguably on their best behaviour, it is quite possible that even more unprofessional conduct and animal suffering could have occurred when no-one was watching. Defra’s myth of a humane and professional cull has been exposed. It would be a travesty to allow this unjustified slaughter of badgers to continue. We’ve always suspected that the cull was inhumane, now we have evidence to show it. It’s time to kill the cull.”
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said:
“Ministers must not ignore this damning verdict on the failure of the Government’s badger culls. This independent report looks set to confirm that less than half of the local badger population was removed in each pilot area, despite ministers previously accepting that 70% was the minimum to be effective and not risk the further spread of TB through perturbation. Appallingly, the analysis of the pilots has apparently also found that they failed the Government’s own ‘humaneness’ test. It would be outrageous if ministers now sought to dismiss the advice of their own Independent Expert Panel and press on with further culling of badgers regardless. The Environment Secretary should come back to Parliament on this issue and there should be no roll-out of the Government’s badger cull policy without a full debate and vote in Parliament. These culls have been a disaster for taxpayers, farmers and wildlife. The Government must now put scientific evidence back at the heart of their approach to the serious issue of bovine TB, instead of being led by the dogmatic personal prejudices of ministers. They should agree to cross-party talks with the aim of securing a renewed consensus for the long term on eradicating bovine TB through an alternative strategy based on vaccination and tougher restrictions on cattle movement.”
PiILOT BADGER CULLS ‘A CRUEL’ FAILRUE’ COSTING £10MILLIONACCORDING TO LEAKED EXPERT REPORT
28 February 2014 18:38 by James Lyons
The shootings, aimed at preventing the spread of TB in cattle, killed 58% of badgers in cull areas in Somerset and 30% in Gloucestershire – well short of the 70% target.
Pilot badger culls were a cruel failure, according to a damning experts’ report leaked today. The shootings , aimed at preventing the spread of TB in cattle, killed 58% of badgers in cull areas in Somerset and 30% in Gloucestershire – well short of the 70% target. And up to 18% of wounded badgers took longer than five minutes to die, missing Defra’s humaneness target of below 5%, according to the independent review ordered by ministers.
Rock star and badger activist Brian May said: “I don’t think people will stand for this. You’re talking about badgers taking five or 10 minutes to die. This is not the way to solve the problem.” He told BBC Breakfast that badgers could be vaccinated for “about £120 a head”.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, claimed the “disastrous” six-week pilots had cost £10million – or £4,000 a badger.
Defra, which claimed it had yet to receive the report , said: “We knew there would be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls.”
EXCLUSIVE: BRIAN MAY ON REPORT PROVING WOUNDED BADGERS DIED SLOWLY IN ‘SCANDALOUS’ CULLS’
28 February 2014 by Jane Mathews
Brian May says report lays bare ‘scandalous’ truth behind the ineffective badger culls.
QUEEN guitarist Brian May has said a new report which revealed that the badger culls were ineffective and cruel shows the “scandalous” truth behind the killings.
Mr May accused Owen Paterson of creating an “awful, bloody mess” with the culls, which he said had sent levels of tuberculosis in badgers soaring in some areas.
An independent study of the pilot culls is said to have concluded that they were ineffective in reducing bovine TB, and that too many badgers suffered in botched shootings.
The research, commissioned by the government, found that 18 per cent of badgers took more than five minutes to die after being wounded.
Campaigners have also revealed in a separate report that observers of the culls saw cases where badgers took up to ten minutes to die after being wounded.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Express Online today, Drr May said he was not surprised by the findings. He said:
“It’s appalling, but it’s what we were expecting. We’ve had first hand reports of badgers being shot and crawling away before they can be found and shot again. It’s upsetting. The fact that there is so much misuse and suffering when they are being observed makes you wonder if things are even worse when they’re not being watched. Culling is horribly cruel, and now we’ve seen the report there’s no doubt about that. The evidence is there.”
“It’s appalling, but it’s what we were expecting”
The research, which was commissioned by the government, also found that the culls failed to meet quotas and were not successful in reducing bovine TB.
Tens of thousands of cows are culled every year because of bovine TB in Great Britain.
Dr May, who has launched an initiative to vaccinate cattle and badgers against tuberculosis, said that the culls had actually increased tuberculosis in badgers, as a result of diseased animals fleeing their territories. He said:
“We have been told a lot of lies. The government has killed exactly the right number of badgers to spread the disease faster. Before they started culling in Cornwall the rate of tuberculosis in badgers was 1.5 per cent, and after a year it was 10 per cent. The message is clear – culling doesn’t work and has never worked. It’s clear that we should be vaccinating badgers and cattle. It just shows what an awful bloody mess that Owen Paterson has made.”
Dr May’s Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative is fundraising to carry out vaccination projects across the country, which are being carried out by volunteers. Badgers are being vaccinated at a cost of £120 per badger – compared with the £4,200 cost per head that was spent during the culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year.
A total of £10 million is estimated to have been spent on the culls, which had to be extended after targets were missed.
Shooters in the cull were told to aim for the heart in order to carry out a quick and humane kill, as badger skulls are too thick to guarantee an instant death with a head shot. But campaigners said that badgers were being shot in the head, neck and shoulder, resulting in non-lethal injuries. They said that the findings meant “hundreds” of badgers could have endured periods of “pain and distress” as a result of the botched shootings.
Badgers took up to ten minutes to die after being shot in the culls, it was revealed today
Natural England badger cull monitors joined last year’s pilot schemes to observe how the shootings were carried out.
The Humane Society International said that the monitors reported that of the nine badgers they saw killed, a third were shot in the wrong part of the body. Two badgers had to be chased before being shot again, with one taking up to ten minutes to be killed. Shooters also failed to wear gloves and face masks or use disinfectant, it was claimed.
Defra had agreed that the standard for declaring the culls humane would be 95 per cent of the shot badgers dying within five minutes. But an Independent Expert Panel appointed by them to evaluate the pilots found that up to 18 per cent of animals exceeded the limit.
Their report has not yet been released.
Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of HSI, said:
“It is deeply worrying that whilst Defra was publicly declaring the pilot badger culls to have been humane, badgers were being shot in the head, neck and shoulder against best practice, some requiring more than one shot and most likely suffering substantially as a result. While the level of observation of controlled shoots was clearly inadequate, if the proportion of poor shot placement and wounding observed is in any way representative of the shooting as a whole, we could potentially be looking at hundreds of badgers enduring pain and distress.”
Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association, said that the BVA could not support a roll-out of the culls if the pilot tests failed to meet humane standards.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:
“The Independent Expert Panel has not submitted its report to ministers and the report has not been published. We knew there’d be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls which is why we’re looking forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations for improving the way they are carried out, because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease.”
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