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Friday, December 22, 2017

A senseless slaughter

Whilst the rest of the country is suffering from Conservative austerity measures, it appears that Ministers can still find the odd £50 million to kill thousands of badgers.

As the Guardian reports, nearly 20,000 badgers were culled this autumn as part of the government’s attempt to reduce bovine TB in cattle, in what critics called the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.

They add that the 19,274 dead badgers is almost twice as many as last year after 11 new cull zones were added to a swath of the West Country worst-hit by bovine TB. While some badgers were trapped before being shot, the majority – 11,638 badgers – were killed by free shooting, a method judged inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.

As Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust, says: “The badger cull is the worst example of incompetence, negligence and deceit at the heart of the government. To spend over £50m of public money killing tens of thousands of badgers without any reliable evidence this will lower TB rates in cattle is a national disgrace.

“If [environment secretary] Michael Gove truly wants to be remembered for putting animal welfare and wildlife protection at the top of the political agenda, he should announce an immediate halt to badger culling and a wide-ranging review of this disastrous, cruel and costly policy”.

Defra cite an academic paper published in the journal Ecology and Evolution in support of this slaughter but its authors have warned that “it would be unwise to use these findings to develop generalisable inferences about the effectiveness of the policy at present” given only two years of data and uncertainty over precisely what causes fluctuations in cattle TB.

Their data also revealed a possible “perturbation effect” with comparatively more cattle TB in a 2km band outside the Somerset cull zone – potentially caused by the shooting disrupting badger social groups and causing them to roam more widely.

The point is of course that there is an alternative to this cull as being demonstrated in Wales. This senseless slaughter is an exercise in popularism designed to appease farmers without actually solving the problem.
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