This is an open appeal to the gentlemen of the IEP – the Independent Expert Panel, currently assessing the humaneness, effectiveness, and safety of the recently aborted pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
You, gentlemen, are the arbiters of decency in your assessment of this unprecedented action of the Government, killing badgers on a large scale, in the certain knowledge that it may make TB breakdowns worse rather than better in British cattle. You, and only you, stand between us and the ‘roll-out’ of wholesale senseless carnage the length and breadth of Britain. On behalf of over 300,000 British citizens, we ask that the IEP take a broad, independent view of what is humane and what is not. We ask that you apply moral standards of decency as high as those of the majority of the British public, who respect the rights of sentient creatures to a fair deal in life.
You will have been assessing how long it took for the animals to die, though you have only been allowed to see a pitifully small percentage of the animals whose carcasses ended up in the shooters possession. You will not be able to assess the suffering of those badgers known to have escaped wounded, and crawled off to die slowly in some neglected corner.
But whether these animals had a humane death or not, we ask you to question whether killing huge numbers of mostly healthy social mammals CAN be humane, especially in this case. Especially when cubs are left to die of starvation in the setts when their parents never return. Perturbation is the reason that culling is predicted to fail as a means of eradicating TB. But it is also a euphemism for the agony of families of badgers smashed forever. There is much more than physical pain involved here. This is mass slaughter of the innocent, and the destruction of an ancient society of highly evolved sentient creatures.
We have always believed that badger culling will be clearly proved to be scientifically unsupportable, practically unworkable and ineffective – even counter-productive – and an economic disaster. The proof is now there for all to see.
But, furthermore, we believe we have the right, after all the evidence is in, to insist that the decision to reject killing as a solution must rest on MORAL grounds. Because only when the public perception of what is no longer acceptable morally becomes clear – only then can British politics and law move on to a place in which the voices of the voiceless will be heard and will count. Only then does ALL this cruelty become forever unacceptable, and illegal, and some day cruelty itself will be eradicated from our country – our world. We ask you to make a moral judgment, which we believe is part of your brief, on whether these pilots could ever have been justifiable in terms of humaneness.
After Tuesday’s passionate debate, compassion is no longer a distant and unattainable dream in the UK. The edifice of the warped and wrong philosophy of badger culling is beginning to crumble. We believe a strong, courageous statement from the IEP can hasten that process, and help to bring about its long overdue demise, in favour of a policy of immediate vaccination of badgers, and, much more importantly, the prioritising of vaccination of cattle.
THE FIVE PANEL MEMBERS
Ranald Munro, a forensic pathologist and former head of pathology at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and former president of the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA)
Neville Gregory, a professor of animal welfare physiology at the Royal Veterinary College.
Piran White, a personal chair and deputy head of the Environment Department at York University,
Timothy Roper, emeritus professor at the University of Sussex and an expert in badger behaviour and
Peter Watson, executive director of the Deer Initiative and a non-executive director of Deer Management Qualifications, complete the panel.
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