Press Release: Politics two, badgers nil, as the guns start again in the cull zones


For Immediate Release:

8 September 2014

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News that badger culling has started again in Gloucestershire and Somerset has been greeted with sadness and anger by animal welfare and wildlife protection groups.

The government has issued licences for the further killing of badgers (a protected species), despite huge question marks over the effectiveness and humaneness of the 2013 pilot culls from its own Independent Expert Panel and from the Chief Scientific Advisor at Natural England, who has called the policy an “epic failure”.

The government has shelved plans to roll out culls to a further ten areas per year, for four years, in England, but has pledged to continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire for a further two years should they be re-elected in May 2015. The Labour Party by contrast has confirmed it will bring an immediate halt to all badger culling should it form a Government. They will also implement a strategy for bovine TB (bTB) reduction based on the Welsh model, which has reduced new incidents of the disease by 48% in the last five years by implementing cattle based measures, with no badger culling.

A Judicial Review challenge by the Badger Trust on the need for independent monitoring of the cull operators failed and is now likely to go before the Court of Appeal. The shooting has begun again despite the growing political scandal on the public safety of the 2013 cull, following reports in the Sunday Times by a government employed cull monitor who has alleged that cull contractors risked the lives of the public by stalking and attempting to shoot badgers on a golf course and near residential housing. This has led to criminal investigations by the Gloucestershire Police in respect of the incident on the golf course and the Avon & Somerset police regarding the shooting near residential housing.

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

This is a triumph of politics, pride and persecution over common sense and science. Potentially, almost 2,000 badgers could die – that’s more than last year – and for what? These culls are ill-conceived and incompetently managed, and will contribute nothing to reducing bTB in cattle. Here we have a government and the National Farmers’ Union pushing ahead with a policy simply because they don’t have the guts to admit that it is wrong, and a complete and utter disaster for the farming industry, tax payer and the protection of our native wildlife.

The same discredited arguments are being wheeled out. They say no country has beaten bTB without culling wildlife – not true, the UK did it in the 1960s and 1970s. They say falling bTB rates in Ireland show that culling works – but the same reduction has been achieved in Northern Ireland without any culling. They say that ‘closed’ herds are being infected, so it can only be the badgers spreading the disease – but the bTB skin test misses 20% of infected cows, meaning they never know for sure that a herd isn’t hiding a sick cow.

To cap it all, as the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales told the Badger Trust Conference on the 29th August, in the past five years the Welsh Government has achieved a 48% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered due to bTB purely by increasing the amount of testing and thus ensuring sick cattle are less likely to be moved around. The answer to this mess is self-evident but the government is too stubborn to back down. Meanwhile, badgers will die, peaceful protesters will flock to the cull zones, neighbour will turn against neighbour, cattle will continue to contract bTB and farmers will continue to be sold false hope. What a sad and pathetic state of affairs.

Dominic Dyer CEO Badger Trust Tel: 07876 596233 J
ack Reedy Badger Trust – Media Adviser Tel: 07751 731107 or 01564 783129