POLL: Should the UK finally abandon its controversial badger cull?



Nearly 20,000 badgers were culled this autumn as part of the government’s attempt to reduce bovine TB in cattle, in what critics called the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.

The 19,274 dead badgers is almost twice as many as last year after 11 new cull zones were added to a swath of the West Country worst-hit by bovine TB. While some badgers were trapped before being shot, the majority – 11,638 badgers – were killed by free shooting, a method judged inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) hailed the cull as a success and said it would be expanded to more areas next year. Farming minister George Eustice announced the authorities would also increase the regularity of testing cattle for bovine TB from annually to six-monthly in high-risk areas.

Badgers on a grassy field in West Kirby. Photograph: Gerhard Hofmann / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

But wildlife campaigners said the cull failed to meet its original targets and Defra could only claim it was a success because after a month of culling they drastically reduced the target number of badgers to be slaughtered in 10 of the 11 new zones.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: “The badger cull is the worst example of incompetence, negligence and deceit at the heart of the government. To spend over £50m of public money killing tens of thousands of badgers without any reliable evidence this will lower TB rates in cattle is a national disgrace.

“If [environment secretary] Michael Gove truly wants to be remembered for putting animal welfare and wildlife protection at the top of the political agenda, he should announce an immediate halt to badger culling and a wide ranging review of this disastrous, cruel and costly policy”.

The effectiveness of culling badgers on reducing bovine TB in cattle is disputed, but Defra cited a recent academic paper showing there was less cattle TB in cull zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire after two years of culling compared to equivalent areas of countryside.

Farming minister George Eustice said: “Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB is delivering results. We are introducing more frequent testing of cattle to find and stamp out disease more quickly than ever before, to add to our tough restrictions on cattle movements to stop disease spreading.

“We are also addressing the disease in wildlife and it is encouraging to see early research shows badger control is having the expected results in driving down levels of TB.”

In the paper published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, the academic authors warned that “it would be unwise to use these findings to develop generalisable inferences about the effectiveness of the policy at present” given only two years of data and uncertainty over precisely what causes fluctuations in cattle TB.

Their data also revealed a possible “perturbation effect” with comparatively more cattle TB in a 2km band outside the Somerset cull zone – potentially caused by the shooting disrupting badger social groups and causing them to roam more widely.

Culling badgers began in two “pilot” areas in 2013 and has since been expanded to 19 further zones in Cornwall, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Shooters in one area of Dorset killed the most badgers – 3,450 – but the original target set at the start of the 2017 cull was for a minimum of 5,175 badgers to be killed.

Jay Tiernan of Stop of the Cull said: “It’s disturbing to see culling being rolled out further, even though every year they fail to reach the targets they set themselves.”

Tiernan also questioned Defra’s claim that there were no “significant” incidents of risks to public safety, citing three allegations of shots being fired dangerously close to anti-cull protesters, including one incident where shots were fired near a lawyer and his 13-year-old daughter in Devon.

Anne Brummer, chief executive of Brian May’s Save Me Trust, said she was “appalled” by the culling, and said her charity’s support for innovative new testing methods on one Devon farm showed that bovine TB could be removed from a chronically-infected cattle herd without killing badgers.

She said the research referred to by Defra showing apparent declines in bovine TB in two cull zones was “no more than poor guesswork”.

She added: “Defra needs to stop producing data that is not worth the paper it is written on and actually publish the facts. The cull has failed farmers, cattle and badgers. It’s ill-conceived, full of bad practice and we need too move on together to tackle the real enemy – bovine TB.”

Cattle TB continues to rise in England, with the premature slaughter of 29,000 cattle in 2016 costing taxpayers more than £100m a year, mostly in compensation to farmers. The government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB also includes grants to encourage landowners and wildlife groups to vaccinate badgers to create a buffer zone between the highest and lowest-risk disease areas in England.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 21 Dec 2017.


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Should the UK finally abandon its controversial badger cull?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.

 

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Jean Kennedy Patrick

They are so beautiful!!!

Mars Greenwood

yes

Lillian Winter

Stop the inhumane badger cull. Badgers not to blame for TB. Bad practices are the fault on most farms I understand.

Doug Copping

Cattle to cattle transmission has always been responsible especially given the compensation payments that can incentivise wilful introduction. It’s a heinously cruel practice (as if there weren’t enough slaughtered on the roads every day) rendered even worse by the gov’t sanctioning free shooting. So unnecessary too when we don’t even need a beef or dairy industry.

Joelle Jojo Mamour Barrier

v oui

Rita Gonzalez Palmeiro

Yes, stop killing!

Eileen Goodman

It’s the hunters that need culling, not beautiful, innocent animals.

Bernadette Charline Gustin

ouiiiiiiiiiiiii

Michael Hughes
Michael Hughes

Eustace claims that already results show the cull is paying off. Rubbish. He has no evidence to claim that and hasn’t the guts to insist that the slaughtered badgers are tested for bTB. Why not? Most are healthy, free of disease.The cull is a sop to farmers and the NFU in exchange for a few more long delayed changes needed in farming practices to control bTB spread.

Annie Boulanger

Oui

Gail Leavitt
Gail Leavitt

Treat the diseased cows and leave the badgers alone. Gail Leavitt, Florida

Isabelle Fernandès

Près de 20 000 blaireaux ont été abattus cet automne dans le cadre de la tentative du gouvernement de réduire la tuberculose bovine chez les bovins, dans ce que les critiques ont appelé la plus grande destruction d’une espèce protégée dans la mémoire vivante. Les 19 274 blaireaux morts sont presque deux fois plus nombreux que l’année dernière après l’ajout de 11 nouvelles zones de réforme dans une partie du West Country la plus touchée par la tuberculose bovine. Alors que certains blaireaux étaient piégés avant d’être abattus, la majorité – 11.638 blaireaux – ont été tués par des tirs… Read more »

Sylvia Jenkins

yes, the badger cull should be abandoned, it is cruel and unneccesary, there could be less drastic methods to eliminate bovene T B

Pauline Mellor-Greenhalgh

Badgers are not the cause of Tb in cattle. Farming practice is responsible for Tb in cattle and badgers and other wild animals are collateral damage. Science says plainly that culling does not work – all it does is bring us nearer to removing badgers from the British Countryside. If badgers are made to go extinct there will still be Tb in cattle.

Michele Jankelow

Absolutely! Appalling savagery and there is NO scientific evidence to substantiate this assault on wildlife. This is just about placatting farmers who always have to complain about something! This will be judged as another HUGE mistake and a tragic one!

Bob Swan

Even after all the scientific evidence, which proved, over and over, Badgers are responsible for bTB; there are those who still want to kill them. Those people, in my mind, are the vermin, the ones who spread sickness and advocate what is nothing more than a psychopathic practise. The same goes for Fox Hunters.

Michele Jankelow

I think you mean not responsible….!

Wendé Anne Maunder

Of course it should abandon the cull; badgers are not to blame for bTB. The UK countryside is full of wild creatures who carry the disease and all were infected in the first place by farmed bovines . DEFRA must urgently turn it’s attention to solving the disgusting state of our farms. Only then can the disease be eliminated.

Tara Wikramanayake

How could anyone with a heart, kill these adorable creatures?

Vanessa Black

Yes..let critters live..dah.