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Saturday, November 30, 2013

UK Government's bovine TB policy in disarray again

The UK Government's already disastrous policy of tackling bovine TB by randomly shooting badgers has become farcical after Natural England pulled the plug in Gloucestershire three weeks before schedule after it became clear even a reduced kill target would not be met.

The Telegraph says that the pilot scheme was extended by eight weeks after marksmen exterminated only around 30% of the local badger population, well short of their 70% target. Natural England gave up the ghost after it became clear that the cull was set to miss even the revised level of 58%. An extension to a trial cull in Somerset also failed to meet its target.

Despite this and the fact that they have no way of knowing whether the badgers that have been killed carried the disease or not the Government wants to press ahead with the policy. Talk about shoot first and ask questions later. This is a spaghetti western approach to disease-control.

The paper quotes Brian May, who quite rightly has asked for a re-think: “Now that the failure of this whole shameful badger cull shambles can be seen so clearly seen, in spite of many moves of the goalposts, it must be time to abandon the concept, and get on with the only strategy which can ultimately succeed in eradication of bovine TB - vaccination of badgers and other wildlife, and prioritisation of work to license the vaccine for cattle. The whole country will get behind this. David Cameron only needs to press the button.”

Surely, this is an occasion when the Deputy Prime Minister's should intervene so as to bring a stop to this madness.
The Gloucestershire experience shows that the policy of culling by 'free shooting' is impractical. It points to the fact that the policy of cage trapping and shooting proposed by the previous Welsh administration to be the best method. The question has to be asked as to WHY only 30% if the 70% target was reached in Gloucestershire. My hypothesis is that stalking for a 'free shoot' around known setts causes disruption, making if difficult to shoot the remaining badgers. Remaining badgers become 'shy'. A trap and shoot policy would eliminate such disturbance not requiring night stalking by marksmen. The findings in Gloucestershire has important questions for the ongoing 'free shoot' policy in Somerset. I see know reason why Somerset marksmen are any less a good shot than Gloucestershire marksmen, which indicates the Somerset population has been underestimated. The Gloucestershire experience shows a problem with the cull method, not that culling is not a effective method of reducing bTB in the wild vector.
Peter, please do press Clegg to use what influence he has to end the badger cull.

The badger cull is wrong ethically, scientifically and democratically - it's also extremely expensive.

Based on Gloucestershire Police figures, the policing costs alone for this year's killing amount to £3.5M - ie DEFRA has now exhausted the budget aside for 4 years killing in the first year.

How many nurses, teachers and police officers could that £3.5M have paid for?

If DEFRA attempts to carry on with the badger cull next year (with a new pot of money) they can expect even more opposition, costing even more public money to contain.
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