The government has today announced the scale of a new round of badger killing as the central plank of its anti-bovine TB campaign. In West Somerset a maximum of 524 badgers can be killed over the coming months under government licence. The figure for West Gloucestershire is 679. In Dorset, which was not part of the slaughter last year, as many as 835 can be destroyed.
The killing gangs are sanctioned to shoot free-running badgers at night, a plan condemned by the British Veterinary Association because of the prospect of inflicting devastating injuries and suffering. The government, in today’s announcement, also makes clear that it has pigs, goats and deer in its sights, as potential reservoirs of the disease, and therefore suitable targets for destruction. It is currently ‘calling for views’ on the merits of killing these animals as a further step to bovine TB control.
Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler: “Since 1975, more than 30,000 badgers have been killed in failed government attempts to control bovine TB, yet tests revealed that 80 per cent of the slaughtered animals were free of the disease. Equally disturbing is the failure to acknowledge the key role that intensive farming methods play in the TB crisis. Commercial cows are selectively bred for unnatural levels of milk production; they are fed an almost indigestible high protein diet; they are increasingly confined in units that allow them rare forays into the fresh air; and their newborn calves are frequently taken from them.
“These appalling strains lead not just to a high incidence of bovine TB, but also to a range of devastating conditions whose economic impact far outweigh that of TB itself. 90,000 cattle are culled annually due to mastitis, 31,000 due to lameness, and 125,000 as a result of reproductive failure.”
Effective measures to reduce or even eradicate bovine TB from farms first of all require the elimination of intensive farming methods. Research also shows that where hedges and ungrazed strips of land are left on a farm, incidence drops. Cattle with an adequate mineral intake are also less susceptible to the disease. Providing mineral licks or enriching the soil – depleted by intensive farming and fertiliser use – has resulted in many farms remaining bovine TB-free, despite those around them succumbing.
Locally, Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is shocked and deeply saddened to learn the news of the Dorset badger cull. They say it is a misguided attempt to control the spread of the bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
The conservation charity, with over 25,000 members will not allow badger culling on any of its 44 nature reserves throughout Dorset.
DWT’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “The decision to carry out a badger cull in Dorset flies in the face of scientific evidence, public opinion and the wishes of parliament. The culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have already shown to be neither effective nor humane, and as a result, a failure. The cost of culling is also high, at £3353 per badger during the trial culls of 2013*, and this doesn’t include policing costs. Dorset Wildlife Trust owns a herd of cattle itself, so we understand how deeply concerned farmers in Dorset are for their livestock contracting this terrible disease, but we will continue to support alternatives to culling that have a far better chance of restricting the disease. Culling badgers is not the answer.”
DWT started a five-year badger vaccination programme in 2013 on selected nature reserves in west and north Dorset, in order to demonstrate that there are alternatives to badger culling.
Dr Cripps added, “We now have four of our reserves involved with badger vaccinations which we hope will help in time to stop transmissions from badger to cattle, and vice versa.”
DWT wants to see the eradication of the devastating disease Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and understands the serious implications for farmers who lose stock as a result, but believes there are more effective and reliable ways of controlling the disease, such as better biosecurity, badger vaccination and, in the longer term, cattle vaccination.
To help DWT continue their badger vaccination programme and donate to the appeal, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/protectingbadgers. For more information about bovine tuberculosis (bTB) our vaccination programme and our position on badger culling, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/badgers.
Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org.uk/badgers to download a letter template provided by DWT and write to your MP to urge them to put pressure on the government to put a stop to the cull. A copy of the DWT template is pasted below.
House of Commons
I am asking you to urge the Government to drop its failed badger cull policy and develop an alternative and effective strategy to tackle bovine TB.
Bovine tuberculosis is an important disease of cattle in Great Britain with significant costs for the farming community and taxpayers, so it is vital that the right mechanisms are used to control the disease. I believe the Government should drop the badger cull from its TB eradication strategy for the following reasons:
· The pilot culls failed to meet their targets and, as a result, are likely to have made the situation worse. The best informed scientists on this issue, including Lord Krebs and Professor John Bourne, do not support the cull – it is unacceptable for the Government to ignore their expert opinion.
· MPs voted overwhelmingly against a badger cull in March 2014 – the Government should act on Parliament’s wishes.
· The badger is one of our most fascinating mammals and an important part of our ecosystem – the Government should recognise that millions of people care deeply about this important part of our natural heritage and the value of nature
Instead of culling badgers, the Government should prioritise badger vaccination, alongside a comprehensive package of cattle measures: better biosecurity, stricter movement controls, improved TB testing and development of a cattle vaccine.
Only then will we be able to get on top of this disease in an effective way.
I urge you, as my local MP, to write to the Prime Minister and Environment Secretary Liz Truss to make this case and stop the cull.