There are many wildlife and conservation issues that deeply concern and upset me which, in the main, I do not blog about but every so often an issue occurs which really angers me.
Long time followers of my blog (and my Followers on Twitter) will know how angry I am about the proposed badger cull so I hope you will forgive me for departing from my usual type of post.
From 1st June licences issued by Natural England to allow badger culling trials came into force. The cull zones are West Somerset and West Gloucestershire and surveys are currently taking place in areas of Dorset to enable the further killing of badgers (a protected species) in these areas.
At some stage this summer, over a 6 week period, 60 mercenaries will begin free shooting of badgers (a totally untested method) with high velocity rifles killing at least 5000 badgers in each cull zone. A bounty of £10 will be paid for each badger killed.
In my opinion, the cull is totally unscientific and will not solve the bTB problem in cattle as can be seen from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) overseen by the Independent Steering Group (ISG) costing £50 million over 10 years killing 11,000 badgers. The ISG report concluded that badger culling "can make no meaningful contribution to the control of bTB in cattle in Britain".
Lord Krebs who oversaw the RBCT has said of the current plans for a badger cull "I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme...."
30 eminent animal disease scientists wrote a letter to The Observer published on 14th October, 2012, saying they were concerned that "badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from nationwide TB control" and urging the Government to reconsider its strategy.
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary has said that if the pilot culls are declared efficient, safe and humane, he wants to create 40 more cull zones in the next 4 years and has plans for badger culling to continue at a high level for up to 25 years. This would mean that up to 100,000 badgers would be slaughtered unnecessarily and uneconomically. He has also said that farmers could be allowed to shoot badgers (at present a protected species) in the same way they can now kill other vermin.
The proposed slaughter is totally unselective and around 85% of badgers shot will be healthy and not infected with bTB. DEFRA has no plans to test dead badgers to see if they were carrying bTB and no plans to vaccinate any badgers that are fortunate enough to survive the massacre. If the cull begins this month lactating sows are likely to be shot leaving badger cubs to starve in setts, newly emerged cubs will be shot and DEFRA has refused to answer questions on how the suffering of injured badgers who bolt back into setts after being shot will be alleviated.
Even worse, if that's possible, it was revealed last week that the Government plans to estimate whether the pilot culls are humane or not by timing the screams of wounded badgers - the noises made will be compared to those made by harpooned whales.
It also has to be remembered that it is very difficult to estimate badger populations and DEFRA has already revised its population estimates in the cull zones from estimates made last Autumn. There is a very real risk that badgers could become locally extinct in the cull zones.
I have every sympathy with farmers whose cattle are found to be harbouring bTB but badgers are being made a scapegoat and even if every badger in England was killed there would still be bTB in cattle.
DEFRA talks about a wildlife reservoir but badgers are not the source of the problem. The disease was almost eradicated in the 1970's, without killing any badgers, and this was the case for the following two decades. After 1990 cattle bTB began to increase due to complacency in cattle controls. Following the BSE problem in the early 1990's there was a large increase in movement due to restocking followed by a doubling of bTB in SW England and new hotspots developing elsewhere. In addition MAFF let testing slip to 4 yearly. During the foot and mouth disease in 2001 there was no testing and this was followed by a backlog of 26,000 herds with overdue tests. The years 2000 - 2002 showed a large increase in cattle TB and the disease spread to areas that had been TB free for 50 years.
The way forward is to vaccinate badgers against the disease, improve biosecurity on farms and improve testing and introduce better controls over cattle movements. In the future when advances have been made on the DIVA test, which will differentiate between cattle that have bTB and those that have been vaccinated,it is to be hoped that the EU will allow cattle to be vaccinated.
I could write reams and reams about my reasons for being against the badger cull but I have ranted for long enough and I am sure many will have "switched off" by now:) and my aim of writing is to ask you please, if you are against the cull, to consider writing to your MP letting him know of your concerns if you haven't already done so. Every letter is logged and matters.
I am sure most of you will have already signed Brian May's e-petition
but if we can all keep on asking our friends and relative to sign it will help. Again every signature matters.
In addition, Labour has announced that it will table an Opposition Day debate on the Government's Plan for a badger cull on Wednesday, 5th June. So again, if you haven't already done so please write to your MP - you can use writetothem.com - asking them to vote for the motion against the badger cull on 5th June.
If you live outside the UK you can sign a petition here :
Edit 4th June Ever so sorry I have removed this link for now because I have just tried to visit the website to order a t-shirt and there appears to be a problem with it.
Apologies for not providing links to click on please just copy and paste.
For lots more information on the badger cull and more ways to help please visit
The Badger Trust website at www.badger.org.uk
www.badgergate.org that has lots of features by scientists, vets, etc. against the cull
Many thanks for listening.
Together we can save England's badgers from a cruel, unselective, unscientific slaughter.