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Warwickshire escapes the culling list

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

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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.

Vaccinating badgers: The Badger Trust, along with other major conservation organisations, strongly opposes the Coalition’s laughter of badgers as a way of controlling the spread of bovine TB. As a Group that’s a view we share. We believe strongly the long-term solution lies first in much more rigorous and frequent testing of cattle plus much tougher controls over the movement of cattle, especially those reared in bovine TB hotspots. Long-term, however, the only real solution, in our view, and that of the country’s top scientists, is vaccination, both of badgers and cattle. As a start the Badger Trust has paid for the training of a small number of Defra-accredited vaccinators and one of our members, Steve Hawkes, a committee member, an area co-ordinator, and Group recorder of setts and road casualties in Warwickshire, was among the first to successfully complete the accreditation course.

Since then Steve has been involved in vaccination projects on a farm on the borders of Warwickshire and Worcestershire and in addition, helped Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to survey, locate setts, and vaccinate badgers on its Brandon reserve late in 2012, and on other sites in 2013 and 2014. Also in 2013 and 2014 surveys and then vaccinations were successfully carried out at the Prison Training College at Newbold Revel. Looking ahead, Steve and other Badger Trust vaccinators plan to carry out further projects to inoculate badgers against bovine TB on an ongoing, yearly basis.

This means that, at times, there may be an opportunity for new and existing members to help in the extensive survey and cage-trap work which precedes vaccination. It’s important and satisfying work that should help badger conservation. Although vaccination is only permitted to take place between June and November, important survey work, (finding active setts in each project area), can be carried out all through the year.

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 Eustice, 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

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