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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Badger cull under fire again

Today's Observer contans the most devastating attack yet on the UK Government's plans to launch a badger cull in England. The paper says that Britain's top animal disease scientists have launched a devastating attack on the government's "mindless" badger cull, accusing ministers of failing to tell the truth and demanding the immediate abandonment of the killings.

More than 30 eminent animal disease experts have written to the paper to describe the cull as a "costly distraction" that risks making the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse and that will cost far more than it saves.

The scientists have rejected the idea of scientific support for the cull, which could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population:

The cull policy is "mindless", according to Lord John Krebs, one of the UK's most eminent scientists and the architect of the landmark 10-year culling trials that ended in 2007. "The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case."

Another signatory, Lord Robert May, a former government chief scientist and president of the Royal Society, said: "It is very clear to me that the government's policy does not make sense." He added: "I have no sympathy with the decision. They are transmuting evidence-based policy into policy-based evidence."

The current government chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, refused to back the cull. Asked if it could make a meaningful contribution to tackling TB in cattle, he said: "I continue to engage with Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] on the evidence base concerning the development of bovine TB policy. I am content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers."

The Government's response just exacerbates their problem. They say that "leading experts Defra brought together in April 2011 agreed that the evidence shows that culling done in the right way can reduce the spread of the disease to cattle, with benefits remaining for many years. The culling policy has been developed to maximise the benefits shown in previous trials, and to minimise the impact of badgers spreading disease beyond the cull area by including hard boundaries such as motorways and rivers."

However, the scientists say that the two-page document produced by the April meeting does not support the cull. Professor Rosie Woodroffe, of the Zoological Society of London, said: "The document simply does not endorse the policy."

She has pointed to research which shows that just 14% of badgers in previous culls had TB and just one in a hundred had severe symptoms. "Furthermore, all the evidence shows that culling badgers increases the proportion of badgers that have TB," she said.

The paper adds that in a separate development, nine leading vets have written an open letter, co-ordinated by the Humane Society, to Defra and Natural England. They warn that the shooting permitted by the cull licences "will inevitably result in the targeting of many pregnant sows and, if culling extends towards the end of the open season, could result in the shooting of lactating sows, leading to the starvation of dependent cubs.

Time for a rethink by the Government.
The sad thing is that this is not news to you or me.

I really can't understand the Westminster Government's desire to kill wildlife and not try to curb bTB which is an awful disease.

However the only positive I can see from this is growth in the Welsh dairy industry as Wales (thankfully) is cull-free.

Keep up the good work Peter!


Sally, I Just read that the English are threatening to buy only Welsh produce.

Also Rethink bovine TB have sent out a press release that the cattle vaccine (already available) could be in use within months.

I just hope that there IS a parliamentary debate next week and this senseless badger cull will be killed.

Today with the letter in the Observer has been a bad day for the Coalition Government and a disastrous PR exercise for the farmer
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