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Warwickshire Badger Group receives reply from DEFRA's Chief Veterinary Officer
Read our response
A slaughter built on supposition and guesswork
Warwickshire Badger Group has submitted a strongly worded critique of Government plans to justify long-term repeat "culling" of badgers. Responding to a consultative paper issued by Defra* the Group highlights major deficiencies in the Government's justifications for more culling. Simplified, Defra is proposing continuing culls in areas subjected to its highly controversial and much criticised culls in areas like Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset. Based on what it describes as "successful" culls Defra asserts that the benefits from such culls can be sustained only if further culls keep badger population numbers at their post-cull levels. But the Group, in its consultation response, is highly critical. We point out in our submission that there is absolutely no evidence as yet that the culls have produced any measurable benefits. Indeed some authoritative independent scientific sources argue that the culls could increase rather than reduce bovine TB spread. We emphasise that Defra is building its case on assumption not evidence. We also point out that its case assumes that its estimates of badger numbers in cull areas are reliable. In fact, bearing in mind the shambolic early culls, which resulted in both the targetted numbers of badgers being reduced and population estimates being hastily lowered, we argue, along with many others, that Defra's population estimates are little more than guesswork, totally undermining any credibility the culls (intended initially to reduce badger numbers by 70 per cent) might have. We also pinpoint another of the weaknesses of the culls. "Success" can be claimed only if there is clear evidence that killing badgers has reduced bovine TB spread. But that is possible only if robust control measures are put in place to make it feasible to separate the effect of killing badgers from the effects of the increasingly widespread and toughened cattle management measures now in place. That ability to conduct a comparison was built into in the randomised badger culling trials which provided the scientific rationale on which these new culls were originally based. But the current culls have no such built-in controls. Furthermore such has been the ineptitude of the culls, and so marked the changes in target numbers and badger population estimates, that the initial science-based criteria on which they were based no longer apply. We say that the slaughter which Defra and the pro-cullers wish to continue has long since become an unproven politically-driven sop to powerful farming lobbyists--like the NFU--and should be stopped, not extended or continued, and major obvious longstanding flaws in cattle management techniques addressed instead. For example: the current method of testing herds for bTB is known to be at best only 80 per cent effective. Huge numbers of diseased cattle are missed. They remain in the herds and it is they--not badgers--which are the main and continuing source of disease spread. We point out, too, that Defra places considerable importance on biosecurity (disease prevention) measures but only recommends them. There is no obligation on farmers to put them in place. So in practice they are widely ignored. Another long-term weakness in bTB control measures is the habit of farmers "buying blind", in other words they fail to carry out checks on the source of new stock they buy in, regardless of whether that stock comes from farms with a poor history of bovine TB breakdowns. We argue that such a practice inevitably leads to farmers importing disease, and that has been repeatedly borne out in practice. Badgers are slaughtered whether or not they carry bTB. Most are healthy but the non-selective culls, heavily criticised for being inhumane, continue. Thousands of badgers making no contribution to disease spread die on the altar of prejudice. It is a travesty and we, along with many other conservationists, have said so and will continue to say so. Click here to see the consultation paper
Final Open Meeting
Took place on Tuesday 14th November 2017 at Baginton Village Hall.
Bovine TB: The Road Kill Evidence
The event was well attended and our guest speakers this evening were Nottingham University's Professor Malcolm Bennett and Jess Phoenix.
They both gave an informative presentation with some interesting facts and figures.
They also offered to return in 12 months time to give a further update on the badger testing.
This was followed by a presentation by Gail Whitehouse from the Derbyshire Branch of the National Trust about their badger vaccination programme.
Caught on Camera
We are constantly receiving calls for help to
solve 'badger problems', often damage to lawns or
newly dug holes under fences, sheds and
Badgers aren't always the culprits and we are buying two more 'stealth cameras' which will capture night images of visiting wildlife.
Warwickshire Badger Group were instrumental in forming the Midlands Badger Forum where badger matters across the Midlands can be discussed and a greater understanding of badgers and their regional problems can be discussed and plans made to tackle any problems.