The truth about badger culling, and a call for the resignation of Owen Paterson


As DEFRA attempt to rescue the failed cull by extending the killing by 8 more weeks …

The TRUTH about badger culling, and a call for the resignation of Owen Paterson.

Owen Paterson
The grinning master of the massacre of badgers. Does he really believe the improbable stuff he comes out with ? Is he to be believed at all ?
Has he failed to deliver the standards of transparency required of a Government Minister?

Minister of the Environment, Owen Paterson’s quotes in the Independent yesterday confirm that Truth was the first casualty of the Government’s bloody mess of a badger cull.

OWEN PATERSON: “Animal groups are condemning badgers to a long, unpleasant death… It is shameful.”

Paterson goes on to assert that those opposed to the badger cull are causing suffering, by preventing him from randomly killing badgers. The idea is so preposterous it’s almost impossible to believe that a Government minister could actually come out with it. Imagine if there were some kids in your child’s class who were suffering from tuberculosis. You’d be very concerned, right ? Imagine if Owen Paterson came along and said “This is a very serious problem: we are going to solve it by killing 70 per cent of the children. Oh, actually, we may kill a higher percentage than that, just to be on the safe side … scientists say this will reduce the reservoir of disease. Then we’ll be able to start doing interesting things like – vaccinating”. This is the exact counterpart of what this man is trying to convince us makes sense for the entirely innocent (and mainly healthy) badger population of Britain. Perhaps the most scurrilous part of this nonsense is the fact that it implies that Paterson would actually CARE about the suffering of badgers – this man who has apparently recently been boasting to his friends about the traps in his garden which squash the heads of squirrels.

OWEN PATERSON: “Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers.”

This has become one of Paterson’s stock answers to people who point out that culling badgers has never achieved eradication of TB anywhere in the world. It’s misleading and unsupportable by the evidence. It would take a separate discussion to demonstrate the point, but this is a prime case of massaging statistical evidence to support a wrong conclusion. In fact, after years of killing over 90,000 badgers, Southern Ireland is in no better a position than Northern Ireland where badgers have never been culled. The figures Paterson is quoting have been cherry-picked from the bar chart of TB reactive cattle over the last 40 years, a graph which is on aggregate just variations on a horizontal straight line. This claim of Paterson’s is outrageously misleading – and in no way supports the theory of culling. He has actually said elsewhere that we ought to follow ‘sensible’ countries in adopting the culling philosophy. Presumably he thinks Northern Ireland and Wales are not ‘sensible’, then. That should make him popular over there. But these wild assertions of Paterson’s are not the most problematical. Concealment of information is something much more serious, and, in addition to DEFRA’s making a mockery of answering recent Freedom of Information enquiries, consider the following.

OWEN PATERSON: “The company wants to go on another 2-3 weeks – a mop up operation and go over 60%. That will help reduce disease because there’s no doubt that some of the badgers they’ve found are desperately sick in the final stages of disease. So, I’m quite clear. It will be good to get a few more if they’re ill.”

If Paterson is telling us that some of the slaughtered badgers were ‘desperately sick’, we certainly have the right to see proof of this. Our suspicion is that if such animals had been seen, the cullers would have been all too keen to show us, since it would have been some kind of qualitative vindication of the culling policy, i.e. “The badgers are sick … we’re killing them for the good of the cows AND for the good of the badgers themselves. We’re good guys – this is euthanasia of the sick and dying.”

Frankly, we don’t believe Paterson’s casual assertion here. Instead of offering us evidence, the Government chose to destroy it, along with the carcasses of the unfortunate badgers, which were disposed of without any impartial officer being allowed to see them. This is highly suspicious, to say the least. The fact that all potential evidence of a painful, inhumane kill was destroyed at the same time makes the Government cull look like a deceitful cloak-and-dagger operation.

Paterson’s major gaffe, accusing the badgers of moving the goalposts, which has caused him to be universally derided, was foolish, since, if indeed the badgers had, in some way adjusted their numbers, it would mean that they were a lot more intelligent than Paterson and his whole tawdry gang. But there are more serious implications. Of course, it’s pretty much inconceivable that their population decreased so rapidly of natural causes, as suggested directly by Paterson. The weather in the period in question was not extreme, nor is there any reason whatever to suppose that TB had suddenly depleted their numbers, since badgers have a good resistance to the disease; therefore a 40 per cent ‘goalpost’ reduction points quite clearly either to incompetence in the counting, or to foul play. Simultaneous with this so-called ‘cooking of the books’ announcement from Paterson, it was revealed that widespread gassing of badgers had been illegally perpetrated by individual farmers. This seems to tie up very neatly. In that small area in Somerset, it’s quite likely that such action could have accounted for a few hundred badgers – who mainly would have died in their setts – and so it must be highly likely that it was the FARMERS who moved the goalposts. Was Paterson aware of this illegal activity or not ? Since it was revealed, there has been no move to prosecute the offenders, who have been openly boasting about their kills on TV. Their confidence indicates that they know they will not be subject to the law, suggesting possible complicity.

Most serious of all is the question of whether Paterson knew about the re-counting of badgers in these zones immediately prior to the culling. In this case, since Paterson customarily issues instructions to Natural England, it’s almost inconceivable that he did not know. Did he suspect that the numbers would be so drastically reduced, if he was aware of the gassing ? If so, to proceed with the attempted culling of 70 per cent of the animals was an attempt at total eradication of the badger families – since 70 per cent of the old estimate is more than 100 per cent of the actual number living at the start of the cull. That’s certainly a crime as judged by the Bern Convention. Of course, as we know, they failed to reach their target, a fact conveniently, dishonestly, omitted from Paterson’s official written report. So now they are seeking to extend the culling period to try to reach an arbitrary ‘more than 60 per cent’ figure for the kill.

It may be that Paterson will plead ignorance of the possible outcome of the revised population figure.

But the mere fact that a recount was taking place should have been made public at the beginning of the cull. Not, conveniently, at the end of it, to try to massage a failure into a success. It does appear that Paterson concealed that information. The public has a right to know all the details of such a controversial, violent action by its Government. The public has a right to expect honesty and transparency from its ministers. It appears that Paterson, in his zeal to push ahead a highly questionable policy, has failed to meet these requirements.


Brian May


There is a postscript to this. The figure of 70 per cent, as a percentage of animals to slaughter, was always completely arbitrary, since there is no scientific evidence, contrary to what Paterson suggests, that this is in some way a magic number. We suggest it has been put out there purely as part of a pretence that the aim of this exercise is not the eventual mass destruction of a species of native wild animal. If the 70 per cent figure has any significance whatsoever, somebody should be pointing out that, by gassing the creatures prior to the cull, the farmers had already contributed to the operation. So, to be strictly correct, the 70 per cent SHOULD be applied to the larger figure anyway. So in the end, more badgers than the projected 800 or so should be allowed to live. We suggest there was never any intention to limit the kill. The shooters were paid by the number of carcasses they turned in … clearly an incentive to go all the way and kill them all, if they’d been able to, particularly since this section of the community enjoys killing anyway. It looks more and more as if this bloody cull has been dishonest in its intent right from the start. It will be regarded as a black period in our history – when killing was undertaken against ethical considerations, against the advice of the whole scientific community, wasting taxpayers’ money, and without producing any benefit for the farming community.

Every time you see a Government or NFU official reminding us how much money Bovine TB has cost over the last few years, remember firstly that this is OUR money – the taxpayer – used to compensate farmers, and secondly that, if this is such a serious issue, we need a serious plan to eradicate the disease. Eradication can ONLY be achieved through vaccination, so any supposed ‘quick fix’ by culling wildlife is a complete waste of our time and money, apart from being a crime against Nature and a disgrace to any country which calls itself humane. This horrific and ineffective policy must be abandoned now, once and for all.

The truth about Ireland.

Here’s the bar chart (below) that all these wild assertions are based on. See who you believe ! The red line is the line that most sane people, including leading scientist Lord Krebs, would draw through the bars, showing the trend among the random variations. It indicates that Bovine Tuberculosis has remained at a pretty much constant level over half a century. Look !

Bovine tuberculin reactors detected in Ireland 1959 an 2011

Now look at the red line that Owen Paterson is drawing (below) ! He’s chosen a random maximum around the year 2000, (40,000 high) and connected it to the low bar in 2011 (18,000). Even if we believe that there IS any significant reduction in recent years, it certainly does not correspond with the period of culling of badgers (from 1983 onwards). And even if it did, during this period different TB tests were introduced, along with changed rules for cattle movement and biosecurity – so it would be impossible to say what exactly it was that caused the improvement. In short, this is bogus science, dishonest interpretation of scientific evidence; and it’s scandalous that a Government should try to hoodwink the public in this way.

Bovine tuberculin reactors detected in Ireland 1959 and 2011 with red line

We rest our case. We’ll be interested to see DEFRA try to ‘debunk’ this analysis.

Brian May

For more Badger Cull Lame Claims here