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Warwickshire may be joining the cull list

This is where you can find the latest news and how you can help us to help our badger population in Warwickshire

Annual General Meeting

Tuesday 10th April 2018

Baginton Village Hall. Doors open 7.15pm for a prompt start at 7.45pm. Chair Denise Taylor will give an overview of the last 12 months and Peter Landsman will present the Treasurer's report. Our guest speaker is Dr Johnny Birks who will be telling us about Pine Martens.

Our Badgers in Danger!

Warwickshire may join cull list

The Government plans to increase the number of cull areas and Warwickshire is one of the new areas where, according to Defra, farmers have indicated they wish to cull badgers. Find out more about this shock announcement here.

Evesham Badger March

Saturday 5th May 2018

Abbey Field, Waterside, Evesham WR11 1BU. Starts at midday. WBG members will be there. We do hope you can spare the time and come along too! #stopthecull

Long Itchington Carnival

Monday 28th May 2018

Long Itchington will be holding their annual carnival and fete on Late May Bank Holiday Monday 28th May 2018. The carnival will assemble from 1130am in Church Road before departing at 1pm to the Community Centre in Stockton Road where the Fete will be held. From 2pm until 5pm WBG will be manning a stall with a Badger Tombola and basketball game. We hope you can come and join us. Entry is FREE.

Compton Verney House

WBG to raise awareness

Warwickshire Badger Group are working with staff at Compton Verney House to provide Badger Awareness Days. This will include games, detective work and encourage educational input. Watch this space for more details.

Upton House

National Trust Property

Warwickshire Badger Group are also working closely with the staff at Upton House. Their grounds hold lots of setts and you can help us discover which setts are in use and which ones are redundant. Learn about spoil heaps, latrines, and look for tell-tale hairs at entrance holes and elsewhere.

Welcome to our Website

Here to help badgers in Warwickshire

If you would like to join, please do. We’re a friendly, informal bunch and new members are always most welcome. As a member you can do as much or as little as you like. You may wish - through your annual membership subscription - simply to support badger conservation. But if you would like to become much more active and involved you can.


What does WBG do?

Warwickshire Badger Group was formed primarily to combat persecution and that remains one of its primary roles (see badger baiting). But the Group does much more than that. It gives talks, attends shows, provides advice, looks for and records new setts, checks on existing setts, monitors road casualties, helps to rescue and rehabilitate injured or orphaned badgers, and acts as a forum for the exchange of information about badgers in the county. One of our members, Steve Hawkes, is also an accredited vaccinator. For more on that see below.

Sett data: The group has an extensive computerised database of several thousand setts systematically built up since the Group was formed, and is constantly looking for more. The database is currently maintained and overseen exclusively by our recorder Steve Hawkes. Sett location information is a valuable asset as it helps Group members to protect them. Ecological consultants, commissioned by developers and public utilities, also ask for help when they are preparing surveys, and the data is also important when liaising with planning authorities about proposed new developments.

Persecution: Sadly, for centuries badgers have suffered from persecution, chiefly from badger baiters, but also from developers and landowners. Baiters put dogs into setts to corner badgers underground. They then dig down into the setts, either to kill the badgers there and then or, as so often happens, to take them away to face fighting dogs in specially prepared pits.

Badger Baiting: Once regarded as the working man’s “field sport” badger baiting - and its more common modern equivalent of “lamping” - is now illegal. But sadly it continues. In some northern counties, notably Yorkshire, it remains a constant problem. Instances in Warwickshire are, thankfully, relatively rare, but Group members continue to work with the police, the RSPCA and other conservation bodies to reduce this illegal and abhorrent activity to an absolute minimum.

The Government’s so called “pilot culls” haven’t helped. The slaughter of badgers under licence in two pilot areas (which were intended to test the humaneness and effectiveness of night shooting, but which undoubtedly failed - as was reported by the independent monitoring teams) has led some people to suppose that badgers generally are no longer protected. But they are! It remains an offence to deliberately kill or injure badgers or to damage or deliberately interfere with their setts. That will continue to be the case everywhere with the exception of the pilot cull areas. So Warwickshire’s badgers remain protected! That’s important.

Sett protection remains vitally important and members of the public can help by reporting to the police any suspicious activity on or close to active setts, especially when it involves men with dogs, digging equipment and the use of nets. But the advice is: if you see setts being dug don’t put yourself at risk. Dial 999. Sett destruction and badger baiting are both criminal offences.

Giving advice: Inevitably from time to time badgers enter gardens where they are unwelcome. Occasionally they create setts, but most often they venture in simply to feed on worms, grubs, insects, fallen fruit - and some seasonal vegetables. Often we are asked to give advice to stop them damaging gardens, lawns and fences. We do our best. But most often there is no simple answer.

The most obvious remedy is secure, well maintained fencing, ideally with strong wire mesh attached and trenched in to prevent the badgers burrowing underneath. But often that is too expensive or impractical. One temporary remedy is an electric fence, but again that’s not always feasible. The Group has one electric fence it is prepared to loan out for short periods in return for a small donation.

Some badger groups report success with ultrasonic devices designed to deter cats and wildlife in general. One worth trying is Animal Away Plus which is sold by a number of retailers, among them Maplins.

One other remedy that has worked successfully is to position in the garden a mains-operated radio and leave it playing quietly throughout the night. The sound deters the badgers.

Badgers sometimes make a temporary home under patios, garages and garden sheds and when that happens it’s probably best to seek advice over the phone. For names of experienced Group members who can provide guidance over the telephone, or who may even be able to visit you, see Contact us, but please remember Group members are all volunteers. Their time is limited and many work full-time. For especially difficult problems the advice of an experienced professional badger consultant may be needed. But please try us first.

Badger Vaccination: As a Group we, (along with other major conservation organisations, a large number of wildlife experts, the country's top scientists, and a significant number of vets), strongly oppose the Government’s slaughter of badgers as a way of controlling the spread of bovine Tb.

We believe unequivocally that the long-term solution lies in much more rigorous and frequent testing of cattle and much tougher controls over their movement, especially those reared in bovine Tb hotspots. Improved standards of cleanliness and better bio-security on farms and, even more importantly the future vaccinating of cattle will have a crucial impact. Vaccination can also help reduce the disease in our badgers which should also be of benefit too.

In England vaccination requires a license from Natural England and the vaccine has to be administered by either a vet or a certified lay-vaccinator. In order to be certified lay-vaccinators have to be deemed competent after attending an APHA course approved by LANTRA and the Secretary of State, (after consultation with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons).

For this purpose a small number of people with suitable badger related experience were trained in trapping and vaccinating procedures in 2011. Steve Hawkes - (our group recorder of setts and road casualties, area co-ordinator, initial injured badger and rehab contact, and committee member), was among the first to successfully complete the accreditation course and pass the written and practical fieldwork examinations.

This enabled him to get the necessary Certificate of Competency and subsequent licence to trap and vaccinate badgers across Warwickshire. Since then he has carried out a number of successful projects resulting in over 70 badgers being vaccinated between 2011 and 2015. More details about our vaccination projects and vaccination in general can be accessed by clicking HERE

Our Badgers under Threat

from culling in Warwickshire

Warwickshire's badgers face the possibility of being drawn into the Government's derided and politically driven expanding slaughter programme. Astonishingly Defra has revealed through a consultation* that our county is one of several in which farmers have confirmed their interest in joining the slaughter programme. The announcement comes at a time when criticism of the culls, which have already seen almost 20,000 badgers killed in bTB hotspot areas, is at its highest level.

Now, more than ever, anyone interested in protecting our badgers and stopping this inane, expensive and failed slaughter programme, should be objecting in the strongest possible terms to their MP and to Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, the man who came into office promising to examine the science behind the cull. Hopes that he would reject the culls on the basis that they lack any scientific rigour and have failed lamentably, for bovine TB continues to rise, have been dashed. But there's a chance that Defra will re-examine the justification for the multi-million pound culls and that, with the Government relying on a marginal majority to get its parliamentary business through the commons, it may listen to public opinion.

So Warwickshire Badger Group is urging everyone to write and complain, again and again. Don't be put off by the bland explanations and claims that Defra churns out. Challenge the department to justify not only the slaughter but its repeated but wafer-thin claims that the slaughter is working. Here are just a few points you might like to include in a letter of complaint:

• The culls have failed. The claims from ministers like George Eustace, that they are reducing bovine TB, are clearly false. If they have worked, produce the evidence.
• The cost of the culls to the taxpayer is huge. It's money wasted. Estimates vary but the cost of each badger killed is around £6,000.
• The culls are driven not by science but by politics (a Labour Government would abandon them) and by pressure from the NFU and other farming unions who have for years bitterly opposed much needed changes to the way cattle are housed, protected from disease spread (the Government calls it biosecurity), and moved around the country to be sold.
• The health of a herd is determined by the "skin test". Yet the test is notoriously unreliable, typically finding only 80 per cent of cattle carrying the disease. That means many diseased cattle remain in a herd after testing and it's they primarily, not badgers, that spread the disease subsequently.
• The Government recommends that farmers put in place strong biosecurity measures, in part to prevent cattle on adjoining farms coming into contact with each other. But these recommendations are widely ignored and there is no penalty for farmers who do nothing. They still earn full compensation when the skin test finds reactors in their herd. Little wonder that some herds fail the test again and again.
• With bovine TB so widespread in hotspot areas especially, the taxpayer has a right to expect that before buying in new stock the farmer would be required to check on the bovine TB status of the farm selling the stock. That's called risk trading. But those checks are rarely put in place. Risk trading is not enforced. It ought to be. It would surely reduce bTB spread.
• Culling is non-selective. Thousands of healthy disease-free badgers which can make no contribution to bovine TB spread, are killed and independent scientists argue that the partial destruction of social groups raises the risk of badgers' immunity to diseases like TB being weakened, increasing the possibility that they could make disease levels worse.
• The culls have been widely condemned as inhumane. Many are shot at night by so-called marksmen (bounty hunters earning money for each badger killed). Inevitably, significant numbers are not killed outright. Shamefully they die a painful death.
• The major transmission route for disease spread is cattle-to-cattle, a direct result both of the failure of the skin test and the fact that over winter most cattle are housed together, nose to tail, for as much as six months. Bovine TB is primarily a disease passed on exhaled breath.

Research has shown that that badgers typically avoid cattle and the suggestion put about by farming unions that direct contact between the two is the way bovine TB is spread from badgers is shown to be just another unsubstantiated wild myth.

These, then are just a few of the facts in this long-running saga which has seen badgers unfairly demonised as the main cause of bovine TB. Pro-cullers often blame the "explosion" in badger numbers from the 1990s onwards as a cause of the worsening TB epidemic. It's worth pointing out that just before and just after the second world war, long before the myth about badger population numbers hugely increasing took root, that around 40 per cent of the UK's dairy herd was infected and the disease was subsequently virtually eliminated by strict area to area cattle testing and removal of infected cattle. No badger culling was undertaken. It worked then and could work now.

*The consultation: (see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/bovine-tb-comment-on-badger-control-licence-applications-or-expressions-of-interest-2018) If you are able to help us further with this campaign to stop the cull coming to Warwickshire, please contact Dr Denise Taylor at chair@warwickshirebadgergroup.co.uk

Zoological experts ZSL add their weight to culling criticisms

A damning indictment of the Government's increasingly widespread slaughter of badgers--and its apparent intention to extend culling to Edge* counties like our own, here in Warwickshire, has come from one of the country's most respected scientific bodies, ZSL, the Zoological Society of London.

In a wide-ranging critical analysis of the claims made by Defra to justify its continuing and widely condemned culling policy ZSL says:

• Emphatically the best way to control bovine TB spread is by tackling cattle-to- cattle infection. Research indicates that 94 per cent of all bTB infection is from other herds, says ZSL, and only around six per cent from badgers.

• Culling can worsen rather than reduce bTB spread and the small impact made by badger-to-cattle transmission can best be tackled by vaccination because (unlike culling) it has no adverse perturbation effect.

ZSL, which is both a scientific research organisation and a conservation NGO, says that contrary to widely publicised Government claims, independent analyses have so far shown no significant reduction in cattle TB from farmer-led culls and it points out that by law the destruction of a protected species can be conducted only "for the purposes of preventing the spread of disease".

Defra has recently commissioned a scientific review (due out this September) of its TB control policy but this is entirely at odds, points out ZSL, with its declared intention of extending culling this year. It asks if, in effect, the review is merely a smokescreen, a PR exercise.

Defra has repeatedly insisted that "every tool in the box" must be used to contain or eliminate bovine TB, so why, asks the Zoological Society, has vaccination, a sustainable, cheaper and publicly more acceptable tool, been effectively side-lined?

The randomised badger culling trials, initiated by the Government at a cost of around £50million, demonstrated a wide number of associated ecological consequences, says ZSL, but the culls both planned and underway were much more extensive in area and in their likely environmental impact. Yet in the same breath the Government was indicating that post-Brexit it planned to restructure farm subsidies to reward environmentally-friendly farming. An apparent contradiction and a mixed message to farmers and the public, observes the Society.

The Zoological Society also looks critically at another possible Government intervention: the culling of badgers in low-risk areas. In essence, it says, this makes no logical sense, the impact of badgers in these areas is so minimal, a fact recognised by the term low-risk, that disease control efforts clearly had to be directed at cattle-to-cattle spread, notably from the disease imported into the area by farmers when they bought in new stock. The Society comments: "there is strong circumstantial evidence that cattle transmit M.bovis to badgers...so moving infected cattle into low-risk areas could lead to localised infection in the badger population, increasing the risk of longer-term transmission back to cattle". Vaccination of badgers offered the best solution to any minor impact they might make.

* Warwickshire is described by Defra as an Edge county, which means the level of bovine TB is rated as variable, that is, lower than high risk areas, where until now most of the slaughtering of badgers has been carried out, but slightly higher than low-risk areas. Defra's definition of Edge areas says the contribution of cattle and badgers to disease spread is uncertain, whereas in low-risk areas the spread is principally from cattle.

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