Cancellation National Roll-out of Badger Cull


“I am disgusted David Cameron and Paterson insult us all by continuing this spectacular failure.”
BRIAN MAY [Guardian]

3 April 2013 by Jane Mathews

CAMPAIGNERS including Queen guitarist Brian May have reacted with anger after Owen Paterson announced fresh badger culls for this year, despite a damning report showing that they were cruel and ineffective.

Brian May and badger
Brian May said he was “disgusted” by today’s announcement [GETTY]
The Environment Secretary said today that the pilots previously carried out in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset would be repeated, but said they would not be rolled out across the country.

Mr Paterson told the House of Commons today that he had “always expected to learn lessons” from the original pilots, and claimed that an independent report on the culls found that they could be carried out safely and humanely.

However, he was accused of ignoring evidence in the report showing the controversial culls to be both cruel and ineffective in reducing bovine TB.

More than 1,800 badgers were killed in the pilots, at an estimated cost of £4,200 per badger.

Brian May, who is fundraising for the badger vaccination scheme he has launched to tackle TB in badgers and cattle, said he was “disgusted” by the decision, and called the previous culls a “spectacular” failure.

In a statement, he said: “It’s almost impossible to conceive how a government can put an ‘Independent Expert Panel’ in place, and tell the public that their next decision will be based on its report, and then, receiving the panel’s decision that the cull is both inhumane and ineffective, still carry on the killing.

“Of course, Paterson’s assertion that ‘we have learned lessons from this’ is quite laughable, since there is there is every indication that things will get worse rather than better the second time around.

“Bring it on, guys. Let’s see how REALLY unpopular you can make yourselves. Meanwhile we will watch as the innocent, and mainly perfectly healthy badgers limp away, wounded and dying.”

Owen Paterson addressed the House of Commons today [PA]

How can you possibly justify continuing a method of killing, free shooting, which has been found to be inhumane by the independent scientific advisors?

Maria Eagle T

he independent report, published in the wake of Mr Paterson’s statement, found that controlled shooting could not deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in TB in cattle.

The study found that only 48 per cent of badger cull population was killed in Somerset, and less than 39 per cent was killed in Gloucestershire.

Scientific research says that 70 per cent of animals need to be culled to cut TB in livestock. T

he report also found that a number of badgers were not shot correctly, leading to slow and agonising deaths.

The independent expert group said the number of badgers who were not shot and killed quickly should be less than five per cent.

However, in the pilots somewhere between seven and 23 per cent of badgers took longer than five minutes to die.

Speaking at the House of Commons, shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle told Mr Paterson: “There is no strategy here, this is an unscientific fudge for you to try and save face.

“How can you possibly justify continuing a method of killing, free shooting, which has been found to be inhumane by the independent scientific advisors?

The culls have been widely attacked by animal rights groups [GETTY]

“You ignore scientific evidence, make a decision based on your own prejudice and then offer retrospectively to tell me and others what the policy is and expect us to agree with you.

“These culls should be ended not extended, they have not worked. What you have announced now is an open season on badgers in the culling areas.”

Mr Paterson said: “These were pilots set up last year, we made it clear we would learn lessons… we will adopt those. We are being responsible by continuing the two existing cull areas.”

The Humane Society International UK welcomed the news that the pilots would not be rolled out across the country, but urged the government to stop the culling altogether.

Vet Mark Jones, head of the Humane Society International UK, welcomed the news that the pilots would not be rolled out across the country.

But he added: “It is nonetheless utterly indefensible that the government is carrying on regardless with its discredited cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset, in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus that culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to tackling bovine TB.

“The Government’s own figures show that we were already getting bovine TB under control before a single badger was shot last year.”

3 April 2014

Badger Baiting
Badger Baiting: Police concern after sett was disturbed. Badgers: UK Government has resisted calls to scrap the controversial culling programme.© Chris Parfitt

Scientists at Glasgow University are to carry out a £1m study into how far badgers are responsible for the spread of TB in cattle. The research was commissioned in the wake of the UK Government’s heavily criticised culling programme, which is being piloted in the south-west of England.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has dropped plans to roll out the cull to 10 more areas after an independent report concluded it fell far short of its aims. The assessment found that fewer than 39% of badgers in Gloucestershire and 48% in Somerset were shot, well short of the 70% target figure. It also raised concerns about the humaneness of shooting free-running badgers of night, after finding that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers were still alive five minutes after being hit.

The research at the University of Glasgow will map the DNA of the bug responsible for the disease, Mycobacterium bovis, and analyse how it is transmitted using sophisticated mathematical and statistical models. It will involve studying thousands of archived samples of bacteria that have been isolated from badgers and cattle over 20 years.

Lead scientist Professor Rowland Kao said: “This study is an excellent example of the potential for new technologies to transform our understanding of epidemiology. The mathematical models produced for this study are important for understanding not only the transmission of bovine TB, but also the dynamics of other infectious diseases.”

The work, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will be conducted over three years.

The UK government has said it will continue the pilot cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset after taking on board recommendations by the independent panel, such as using more and better trained marksmen.

Badger Trust logo

3 April 2014

Badger Cull Roll-Out Postponed – But Culling Returns to Gloucestershire and Somerset

A potential badger cull across 10 further areas in England has been postponed by the government, but culling will continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire, it has been announced today.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson told Parliament that the government was listening to advice from the Independent Expert Panel Report and wished to ‘perfect’ the culling technique before rolling it out to other areas.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“In one sense this announcement is great news, as the lives of thousands of badgers have just been saved. There has been a massive, peaceful but determined opposition movement to this killing spree shown by protest marches across the country, and this has obviously paid off. The government is clearly in full retreat. They had hoped to cull badgers in 12 areas this year, so to only be culling in two is a victory of sorts. But why continue at all? Culling is cruel, expensive and won’t work. The government should call it off completely, and come to the table so we can plan a way of beating bTB which will actually be effective.

“The Badger Trust will now be looking at options to take a Judicial Review case to the High Court to stop any further badger culling. Has there ever been a government policy that has so blindly, so arrogantly, pushed on despite all the evidence showing that it won’t work and that it isn’t necessary?

“In just the last week we’ve been presented with more false arguments and untruths. TB will cost £1 billion over 10 years? Really? Prove it, the maths doesn’t add up. TB can only be beaten by killing wildlife? Really? Wales has cut the number of TB cattle slaughtered by nearly half in four years, without a cull. The Ireland cull shows that culling works? Really? A BBC investigation has just shown that there is no evidence to justify that claim. Oh, and cats are spreading TB to humans because of badgers? Give me a break, that’s outrageous scaremongering.”

Owen Paterson committed to rolling out the cull to further areas in the future but did not specify when. Dominic Dyer added: “Where’s the sense? Better farming practices including controlled cattle movements, better testing and better biosecurity are clearly working. Combine these measures with a long term badger and cattle vaccination programme and we will beat this disease, without having to kill any badgers. We desperately need the government to stop pushing ahead with a political non-science based culling policy which is leading to the senseless destruction of badgers and open their eyes to what will actually help farmers and wildlife alike.

“We do welcome the commitment to creating badger vaccination ‘buffer zones’ but we also wish to see this rolled out to TB hot spot areas as well. The government will now be under huge pressure to provide farmers with a vaccination option in areas where there won’t be a cull for many years, and we’re very happy to help them do this.”

Dominic Dyer CEO Badger Trust on 07876 596233
Jack Reedy Badger Trust on 07751 731107 / 01564 783129

3 April 2014 by Damian Carrington

Damning independent report finds shoots were not sufficiently effective or humane

Anti-badger cull flyer
Anti-badger cull flyer on a stile near Blakeney, Gloucestershire. Photo: Sam Frost for The Guardian


Plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across England have been dropped by Owen Paterson after a damning independent report found the shoots were not effective or humane.

The two pilot culls, in Gloucestershire and Somerset, will continue with improvements recommended by the independent expert panel (IEP), including more and better-trained marksmen. But plans to start badger culls in 10 other areas have been abandoned, the environment secretary announced on Thursday, telling MPs he was taking the responsible approach.

“This disease is the most pressing animal health problem in the UK,” Paterson said, noting that 26,600 cattle were slaughtered in 2013 and that the disease had cost taxpayers £500m in the past decade. But he accepted that “on effectiveness … the culls did not make as much progress as we hoped.” He said the cull operators had often faced a “disgraceful amount of intimidation from some of the more extreme protesters”.

The shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle, said the abandoned roll-out was a humiliating climbdown for Paterson. “Consistent with his inept handling of this shambles he has put prejudice before science, secrecy before transparency, conflict before consensus and posturing before good policy,” she said.

Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a leading badger expert who conducted a landmark decade-long trial of badger culling, said even the two pilot culls should be halted. “The pilot culls performed so poorly in effectiveness and humaneness, I would stop and invest in something more promising,” she said.

The culls, aimed at curbing the rise of tuberculosis in cattle, were dismissed by senior scientists as “mindless” before they started and have provoked huge public opposition since, and led to ministers losing a vote in the House of Commons. The night-time shoots failed to kill enough badgers in the allotted time, which scientists warned could lead to escaping badgers spreading TB more widely and increasing it in cattle.

The IEP report, published on Thursday, revealed the pilot culls had failed even more comprehensively than previously thought. New, more robust estimates of the proportion of badgers killed within the initial six-week limit found that fewer than 39% of those in Gloucestershire had been shot and fewer than 48% in Somerset – far short of the 70% minimum and lower than earlier estimates from Paterson’s department. Risky extensions to the cull periods made little difference, according to Woodroffe.

The IEP report is also damning on the humaneness of shooting free-running badgers at night. It found it was “extremely likely” that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers were still alive after five minutes and therefore at risk of “experiencing marked pain”, above the 5% maximum allowed. The experts also concluded that fewer than half the badgers were shot in the recommended target area.

Paterson said he accepted the IEP recommendations to “improve the accuracy and field-craft” of shooters. He added that if the free-shooting of badgers could be “perfected”, he still wanted to see the culls rolled out in the future. Paterson previously said he wanted 40 culls across the nation.

Opponents of the cull have argued that vaccination of badgers and cattle is a better strategy and Paterson said: “I am proposing a scheme for [badger] vaccination projects around the edge of the most badly affected parts of the country, in an attempt to create a buffer zone of TB immunity to stop the disease spreading further.” He also said large-scale field trials of cattle vaccines were being designed, but said a usable vaccine was many years away.

Opponents have also argued that stricter testing and controls on cattle movements are the key to cutting TB. In Wales, where a planned badger cull was abandoned, the number of cattle slaughtered has fallen from 11,671 in 2009 to 6,102 in 2013, a 48% drop, following more stringent testing. The number of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain fell by 15% in 2013 following some new controls being introduced in England.

The campaigner and Queen guitarist Brian May said: “I am disgusted that David Cameron and Paterson insult us all by continuing this spectacular failure.”

Mark Jones, at the Humane Society International UK, said: “Whilst the abandonment of the planned badger cull roll-out this year is a welcome U-turn, it is utterly indefensible that the government is carrying on with its discredited cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset. [Those] farmers are being led down a failed path and Paterson is leading the way like the Pied Piper.”

The RSPCA’s David Bowles said: “We are delighted [Paterson] has started to listen to the strong feelings of the public, their MPs and the scientific evidence that the culls were ineffective and inhumane.”

But Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union, which has strongly backed the cull, said: “As pilots, there was always going to be the potential to make improvements as a result of knowledge gained. TB remains a terrible disease for cattle and cattle farmers where it is persistent. It is hugely important that any cattle controls go hand in hand with measures to tackle the disease in badgers and culling must play a part in that.”

3 April 2014

The government has said it will not expand badger culling to other areas this year to reduce TB in cattle. The environment department’s original plan was to announce up to 10 new cull areas in south-west England each year. Defra’s own independent assessment shows that culls in two pilot areas were not effective, and raised questions about their humaneness. These pilot culls will continue, though there will be no independent oversight to assess their future performance.

“The need for the field trials and required legislative changes mean that a useable cattle vaccine is still many years away.” Owen Paterson – Environment Secretary

In a Commons statement, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson proposed a programme of vaccination around the edges of the most badly affected parts of the country. This, he said, would create a buffer zone of immunity that would stop the disease from spreading.

“We have always been clear that there would be lessons to be learnt from the first year of these four-year culls,” Mr Paterson said. “If we do not control TB, the bill will rise to £1bn over the next decade. It is vital that farmers, vets, non-government organisations and politicians work together to free England of TB.”

‘Open season’

The Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle called the pilot culls “disastrous” and said Mr Paterson had put “prejudice before science”. She also said the environment secretary had ignored calls in the House of Commons to seek alternatives to culling. “What he’s announced now is simply open season on the badgers in the culling areas,” she said “

I’m disappointed that this year’s culls will lack the independent oversight needed to provide confidence.” Prof Rosie Woodroffe Institute of Zoology

Prof Rosie Woodroffe, from the Institute of Zoology, told BBC News: “I think it’s excellent news that Defra ministers have decided not to extend badger culling to new areas, when the poor performance of last year’s pilot culls raises very serious questions about whether this approach will make a bad situation worse. “Continued culling in the Somerset and Gloucestershire area needs to be much more humane, and much more effective, than last year’s pilots, and so I’m disappointed that this year’s culls will lack the independent oversight needed to provide confidence in those key measures.”

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “As today’s strategy sets out, it is hugely important that any cattle controls go hand in hand with measures to tackle the disease in badgers. And culling must play a part in that where TB is rife.”

Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International UK, commented: “Whilst the abandonment of the planned badger cull roll out this year is a welcome U-turn as well as a damning indictment on Defra’s failed culling policy, it is nonetheless utterly indefensible that the government is carrying on regardless with its discredited cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset.”

The British Veterinary Association said it was “regrettable” the Environment Secretary had decided to announce a preferred way forward without consultation with “key stakeholders”, including the BVA.

Responding to accusations he had ignored scientific advice, Mr Paterson said England’s chief vet, Nigel Gibbens, had warned against stopping the cull now in the Somerset and Gloucestershire pilot areas. He added that some £24.6m would be invested over the course of this parliament in the development of effective TB vaccines for both cattle and badgers.

“In 2013, I agreed with the European Commissioner the work needed to develop a viable cattle vaccine. We are designing the large-scale field trials necessary to take this forward,” said Mr Paterson. “The need for the field trials and required legislative changes mean that a useable cattle vaccine is still many years away.”