POLL: Should the cull of badgers be allowed to continue in 2014?

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This year will be pivotal for one of the most controversial policies involving in recent times, when the government decides whether to proceed with extending the cull pilots, which began last summer in the areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset, to other parts of England.

European Badger (Meles meles) ex Wikipedia under Creative Commons License

The effectiveness of the trials is currently being assessed by an Independent Expert Panel, who are expected to report back to the Secretary of State in February. However, the current evidence suggests that both culls have been a catastrophic failure with neither of the pilots able to comply with the original licencing conditions from Natural England, which stated 70 per cent of badgers in each zone should be culled within a continuous period of six weeks.

The official figures from Defra show that only 58 per cent of the badger population were killed in Somerset and 42 per cent in Gloucestershire. Even with extensions of 9 weeks in Somerset and 11 weeks in Gloucestershire, marksmen could not kill the required number and the Gloucestershire extension was abandoned when it became clear they could not meet their target. It is bad enough that these badgers were killed needlessly, but evidence suggest that culling could make the spread of bovine TB (bTB) even worse due to perturbation as infected animals flee to areas outside of the cull zones, spreading the disease.

Despite the growing discontent in Westminster, highlighted by the recent Westminster Hall debate led by Chris Williamson, Defra has indicated the culls may be expanded to areas designated as ‘high risk’ or ‘edge area’ for bTB as part of its strategy for achieving bTB-Free Status over the next 25 years and could involve creating ten new cull zones in England during 2014.

The decision to roll out this rapidly unravelling policy could be highly contentious for MPs in the affected constituencies, as public opinion increasingly favours a vaccination alternative. A recent poll carried out by YouGov for the revealed 37% of voters would regard a parliamentary candidate more favourably if they support vaccination, against 10% of those supporting a cull.

We urgently need transparency on the humanness criteria so MPs can properly evaluate and debate this matter before any further roll out is considered. In addition, the government must do more to find a vaccination alternative. A report by Lord Krebs, the scientific advisor who led the Randomised Trials from 1998 to 2006, concluded “the best prospect for control of bTB in the British herd is to develop a cattle vaccine”. Currently vaccination of cattle against bTB is forbidden under European Union legislation as it is impossible to tell apart an animal that has been vaccinated from one that is infected. But a new DIVA (Differentiate Infected From Vaccinated Animals) test, now enables scientists to distinguish between the two.

Despite the DIVA test, Defra claims it will take ten years before the EU Commission will allow vaccinated cattle to be traded internationally and argue farmers cannot wait this long for a solution to bTB. However, the evidence clearly shows culling does not provide a solution to bTB and, if anything, exacerbates the situation.

A new year is often a time to rethink how we tackle ongoing and sometimes seemingly insoluble problems. This is the opportunity for the government to acknowledge the failure of the pilots and look again at a more holistic approach, working with farmers and landowners to develop better animal husbandry policies and co-operating with animal welfare organisations. Above all, we need an honest, scientific led debate and the political will to find a vaccination alternative that will allow farmers to keep their cattle healthy and give badgers the protection they deserve.

We invite you to vote FOR or AGAINST the continuation of the badger cull in 2014. Even if you’re not from the UK, please vote and also leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the cull of badgers be allowed to continue in 2014?

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Now that you’ve voted, please contact your MP and ask them to sign EDM661 :

Pilot Badger Cull Parliamentary Assessment and Vote #2

Don’t delay! Do it today.

The editorial content of this article was written by IanP for the League Against Cruel Sports.

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Will Robinson

Hey you guys! Yes YOU reading this comment. Do you like beef? I do, I love beef and I even loves cows, so much so that it's in my best interest to protect them, because I'm a farmer and cows are my livelihood. Now badgers, I don't like them, they carry TB which kills my cows, one life for another, I doubt it. Step back and look at yourself, you want to protect animals but YOUR actions cause other animals to be killed and not in a nice way. And no, my cows are for breeding purposes not beef so… Read more »

Barbara Langridge

No way – culls are cruel and unnecessary

James Cockayne

Cameron is a sick joke along with his other toff mates like Paterson , the badger is a protected native species happy living in the UK before any human arrived – long live the badger in peace

Tracey Casswell

Leave them alone ! Vaccinate the cows ! Badgers are great!

Angela Samson

Any cull of the iconic British Badger is so wrong on all levels. It is a cheap and nasty way of dealing with the bTB problem also it has yet to be proven that the Badger is the only animal to blame for this disease. More likely, bad farming practices are more to blame than anything else. Inoculation is the only way DEFRA can succeed in eradicating this disease for once and for all.

Colin Kollin
Colin Kollin

Some farmers and landowners may not care for badgers, but they have no right to harm them. Many people want badgers and other wild animals to be free from persecution.

Anna Wilson
Anna Wilson

Simply no! Its proven ineffective! Leave them alone and come up with another more humane solition! The farmers are in need to vaccinate their cattle

Steve Wallis

Cost of barbaric badger cull – £1,311 per badger! http://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25719562

Kiri Green
Kiri Green

Science and common sense told us it wouldn't work, which has been well demonstrated. The most clear point is that it is NOT cost effective, costing several times more than projected savings in TB reduction. No evidence it even reduces TB, not that that would justify it. Save time, money, badgers and cattle by VACCINATING THE COWS.

Victoria Peacock
Victoria Peacock

Definetly NOT!!!!!!!!! People need to face the facts rather than turn a blind eye and wipe out these beautiful innocent animals!!!!!

Catherine Wheel

Lol, Mike, think you meant to say that the 3 (now 8) people voting yes hit the wrong button 🙂

Ellen Garside
Ellen Garside

The cull on badgers was clearly a massive failure so why is it even being considered that it should go ahead again? This is cruel and not to mention completely pointless.

Laura Snyder Klutey

Find another way of combating the disease rather than wiping out a species. What we are doing to the environment is a travesty

Mustelid Meles

The level of incompetence and arrogance in launching agh first pilot culls was beyond belief. The mere notion that Mr Patterson is contemplating a further roll out of the cull this year is absolute insanity! The evidence is clear the pilots failed, perturbation will make TB worse not better, the bio security measures already being implemented are producing improvements in TB figures, every report with any sort of science to it recommends don't cull it's not effective! Stop wasting public money on culling and Cameron reOpen the 5 out of 6 vaccine research programmes that you shut down before the… Read more »

Mike Byrne

Kill TB not vital British wildlife!

Jocelyn Pattison

It's criminal how these animals are treated cull them to extinction like so many other animals on the face of this earth. Then you have to spend millions to introduce breeding programs when they are almost extinct.,,what's the point in that?

Sue Barr
Sue Barr

At a time when the cost of living is so high and many are suffering it is inconceivable that the government would spend the astronomical amount that they wasted on the pilot culls again. They are a waste of money that could have been put to far better use than killing wildlife. We all know that culling is not the answer. About time patsy mans up and admits he's wrong.

Mike Jones

I guess the 3 people voting no hit the wrong button