Badger culls begin in Dorset despite opposition from animal rights groups
4 September 2015
Badger culls have begun in Dorset and are continuing in other parts of England, despite a call from Queen guitarist and campaigner Brian May for them to stop while he seeks a judicial review. The Government’s decision to extend the cull of badgers was announced last week, and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now confirmed the culls have begun.
Natural England authorised a four-year licence for Dorset, where between 615 and 835 badgers are due to be killed over a six-week period this year, alongside the third of four years of culling in Gloucester and Somerset. A spokeswoman for Defra said: “The culling activity is now under way in Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire.”
Animal rights groups have voiced their anger over the move, pointing to an independent expert panel’s findings that the trials had proved neither humane nor effective and should be halted.
Speaking last week Dr May, who founded the animal charity Save Me Trust, said: “The Government should quit now, and save the taxpayer more fruitless expense. This is a tragedy for our farmers, cattle and wildlife. The scientific advice has been ignored by ministers with more badgers set to die again this year.”
Farming minister George Eustice said “strong action” was needed to protect the dairy and beef industry by controlling the spread of TB in cattle, claiming the support of “leading vets” for the culling policy. And farmers’ leaders said they were disappointed the cull had not been extended to other areas.
Figures released earlier this week showed culling badgers has cost the taxpayer £16.8 million in the past few years, or £6,775 for each animal killed. The costs were revealed by Defra in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Badger Trust, who said the figures show the policy is an “unacceptable burden on the taxpayer”.
WESTERN DAILY PRESS
Queen’s Brian May’s anti-badger cull group says cull teams lack of professionalism will halt action
3 September 2015
Queen guitarist Brian May’s anti-badger cull group will rely on what it claims is the lack of “professionalism” by the cull teams and the failure by the government to insist on cage trapping to persuade a court to halt the action. The Save? Me Trust – the charity backed by Mr May – has submitted a letter to Natural England, which licences the badger cull, setting out the basis of a judicial review it plans to pursue.
A third year of culling could start within days in Somerset and Gloucestershire, while the first year of a new four year cull in Dorset is also about to get under way. Cull teams are licenced to kill up to 2,000 badgers across the three cull zones over a six week period between now and the end of January.
The letter from the Save Me Trust points out that badgers are a protected species and to justify killing them Natural England has to show they are reducing disease.
The Trust claims?: “The scientific consensus is that a badger cull can lead to a slight reduction in the incidence of bovine TB, but only if the cull is carried out professionally and thoroughly, using experienced field staff to trap the badgers in cages before shooting them. Anything less cannot be relied on to reduce the spread of bovine TB, and may well increase it, because the badgers that survive move around more and so have a greater opportunity? to catch bovine TB or to pass it on. Natural England has licenced contactors to shoot badgers in the field. In Gloucestershire and Somerset the contractors have entirely failed to carry out the kind of cull that could be expected to slightly reduce bovine TB, and there is a significant chance that their efforts have caused infections in farmers’ herds, not prevented them. “There is no reason to believe that their performance? will improve this year, nor that the contractor in Dorset, who has just been issued with a licence, will fare any better. This means that the annual cull planned to begin in a matter of days cannot in any rational sense be said to be serving the purpose of preventing the spread of disease. It is therefore unlawful.”
The letter, the first step in legal action, sets out the reasons why culling cannot be said to prevent disease, according to the Save Mr Trust lawyers.
But the National Farmers Union says that evidence from the two pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire – about to start for a third year – show that bovine TB cases have fallen in the cull zones, in Somerset from 34% to 11%. Farming Minister George Eustice, the MP for Camborne and Redruth, said: “Our approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by leading vets”.
TB or not TB: Farmers could buy 34 calves for cost of killing just one badger
3 September 2015 by Stuart Winter
SHOCK new figures reveal farmers could buy 34 calves for the cost of each badger killed by the Government’s controversial culling strategy to prevent the spread of TB in cattle. Taxpayers have forked out £6,775 for every badger shot during the pilot culls carried out in the West Country as part of the war on bovine tuberculosis.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed the costs in a Freedom of Information disclosure to the Badger Trust, showing that £16.8 million had been spent on culling badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset over the past three years. Whitehall officials argue that the cost of bovine TB to the country is £100 million a year and each single outbreak costs a farmer £14,000 and the Government £20,000.
But with a new round of culls about to start and the killing zones being extended to Dorset, the Badger’s Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer is questioning the waste of public funds. “Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer,” he said.
The revelations on the levels of spending come as Brian May’s Save Me Trust ratcheted up the pressure on the Government scientists at Natural England, the official department that has to issue licences so that legally protected badgers can be shot lawfully.
Lawyers for the Save Me Trust have written to Natural England requiring them to revoke licences held by cull operators because the scientific consensus is that it can lead to a slight reduction in bovine TB only if carried out “professionally and thoroughly, using experienced field staff to trap the badgers in cages” before they are shot.
“Anything less cannot be relied on to reduce the spread of bovine TB, and may well increase it, because the badgers that survive move around more and so have a greater opportunity to catch bovine TB or to pass it on,” said Save Me Trust chief executive Anne Brummer.”If Natural England does not revoke the licences, then the Save Me Trust will take legal action to require Natural England to act within the law.”
Defra’s new cull figures, which previously estimated that each badger killed had cost £6,100, breaks down the year-on-year amounts spent. In 2012, when the cull was postponed, the cost £2.5million; in 2013, with police costs, the sum was £9.8million, and the 2014 figure was just under £4.5million. A total of 2,476 badgers were killed, amounting to £6,775 for each animal.
Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer said: “When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer-led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.” He added that if the cull was rolled out to more than 40 areas in England, as suggested by then Environment Secretary Owen Paterson in 2013, the cost to the taxpayer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.
A Defra spokesman said: “TB poses a huge threat to our farming industry and has cost £500 million over the last decade. We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling in areas where TB is widespread.
“Costs have been substantially reduced since last year and will be kept under review.
Badgers are making us look stupid – so let’s kill them all [POLL – Who should we cull for causing boving TB?]
2 September 2015
Brian May’s Save Me Trust calls for Dorset badger cull licence to be revoked
2 September 2015 by Harry Hogger
ROCK star Brian May’s charity, the Save Me Trust, has sent a letter to Natural England asking it to revoke a licence granted to cull badgers in Dorset.
It was revealed last week that Natural England was to grant a licence for a trial scheme that would see more than 600 badgers killed a year in the county until 2018.
The Save Me Trust has written to Natural England prior to taking action, requiring it to revoke the licence for Dorset as well as badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
The charity said: “Badgers are a protected species. Unless an exception applies, killing a badger is a criminal offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. One exception is when the badger is killed for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease, and the killer has a licence issued by Natural England. The Government has not sought to repeal or amend the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, so Natural England has to comply with it. It justifies issuing the licences on the grounds that the cull is for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle. The scientific consensus is that a badger cull can lead to a slight reduction in the incidence of bovine TB, but only if the cull is carried out professionally and thoroughly, using experienced field staff to trap the badgers in cages before shooting them. Anything less cannot be relied on to reduce the spread of bovine TB, and may well increase it, because the badgers that survive move around more and so have a greater opportunity to catch bovine TB or to pass it on
.” The charity continued by saying that there was ‘no rational sense’ to justify the proposed cull in Dorset and it was ‘therefore unlawful’. It said: “Natural England has thus far done the Government’s bidding when it comes to issuing licences. The letter from the Save Me Trust sets out the reasons why the cull as it has licenced it cannot with any confidence be said to prevent disease. “It also sets out ways in which Natural England has failed in its duty to consult the public before issuing licences.”