"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Plea on behalf of English Badgers

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.


Chris Rohrer said...

What is wrong with these people??? Wouldn't it be better to pay people to give the vaccination and somehow tag them than killing these animals! This is absolutely one of the worst ideas ever. The populations WILL disappear from the UK and then what animal comes next? Who makes these decisions against all this opposition and has the power and authority to override a protected species??!!!! We fight here as well and we may win. Your blog post on this is very important and I will spread your word out to others here in the US, etc. It breaks my heart. It is my birth state's animal. The Wisconsin Badger. Really incredible creature. Keep fighting and I will sign that petition for the outsiders. We are all connected. What one country does affects all of us.

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris for your kind words of support - really appreciated :)

The badger over here in England is the European badger (Meles meles).

The Govt Environment Minister has made the decision to go ahead with the cull. In Wales they are vaccinating badgers against TB instead. We are vaccinating over here - Wildlife Trusts, National Trust are vaccinating badgers on their land. Local Badger groups too have people trained to vaccinate. As you say it would make far more sense and be far more humane to use money to vaccinate and not cull.

There are an awful lot of people over here against the cull - Team Badger (comprised of wildlife, conservation, animal welfare charities) are fighting the battle as well as The Badger Trust. Loads of individuals and individual orgs are all doing their bit to fight the cull. There was a big march against the Cull at the weekend in London and on Monday we have #badgermonday on twitter too when we tweet about badgers to try and raise awareness. Nearly 240,000 people have signed the Brian May UK petition. People are patrolling cull zones at night to try and prevent. We are not going down without a huge fight!!!!

Thanks so much for planning to sign the overseas petition - greatly appreciated and any awareness you can muster over there would all help.

There is now a video on you-tube you might like to watch. There should be a link on the Badger Trust website if not Google CanTheCarrot video on you tube. If you can't find let me know and I'll post a link.

Thanks again :)

Wendy said...

I'm really upset and angry too. I can't believe the Govt isn't listening to public opinion and the evidence and that the pro-cull interest has such a grip on policy.

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - I know - its all so frustrating. I can't remember ever feeling so angry. Goodness only knows how we will feel if the massacre actually begins :(

The sad and awful thing is that if they go ahead it might only cut cattle bTB by such a small percentage (and, of course the horrible free shooting method has never been used before so the figures may be all wrong anyway) and thousands and thousands of badgers are going to die a dreadful futile death.

ShySongbird said...

Well done Caroline! Perfectly put! I of course agree with your sentiments entirely. I put a link to Brian May's petition on my sidebar two or three weeks ago (which I had signed a while ago) but was considering removing it this week as I thought the battle was lost...I hate to say it but depressingly, I do feel that it probably is. It seems the government are determined to ignore the experts and the facts and I also think that significantly they are determined not to be accused of making another U-turn. The moment the tabloids and opposition parties started crowing about 'yet another U-turn' when the cull was postponed last year my heart sank.

My MP is very much in favour of the cull as he is of repealing the ban on hunting with dogs which would include Hare coursing which I am sure I read a long time ago he took part in himself when it was legal :-( I have written to him before on such matters and got precisely nowhere :-(

To be honest I feel terribly sad and pretty despairing about it all, also about the vile Buzzard cull purely to protect shooting interests and the continuing cull of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls (which are declining seriously in this country) on a large shooting estate where Natural England of all people issued licences to destroy tens of thousands of birds officially to stop water pollution but as some experts think also to protect grouse shooting interests! What with all that and the continuing use of the sickeningly cruel Larsen traps to catch and destroy Corvids it really does seem there is very little regard for wildlife or the views of those who want to protect it in this country, it is so depressing!! Sorry to veer slightly off subject and also to 'preach to the converted' Caroline...I hadn't intended to when I started... I really do hope there is something that can still be done to persuade the government to see sense and halt this Badger cull atrocity! Very well done for not giving up :-)

Countryside Tales said...

Hi RR, I've just found your post from Jan's site and read it with great interest and increasing horror. I'm afraid I've been a bit slow on the uptake so thank you for writing an articulate piece that has kicked me into action. I will sign the petition. How is it we manage to get these things so dreadfully wrong time and again and never seem to learn from it.

Countryside Tales said...

ps- I've just put a link to your post on my blog- hope that was ok. Well done for writing it.

Anonymous said...

A well argued and balanced post and though I myself come from an agricultural background I am opposed to the cull as I feel its effectiveness will be minimal at best. Nevertheless I do feel for those livestock farmers in SW England where bTB is rife, and whom are desperate to try anything to stop this dreadful disease, but surely vaccination must be the way forward rather than this crude and indiscriminate cull of our native wildlife !

Ragged Robin said...

ShySongbird Hi Jan :)Thank you :)

Sadly, I have to admit too that I can't see another u-turn. I read somewhere in the media that DC had "warned" OP against another one after the postponement last autumn. I think the only thing that might help is even more of a rise of public opinion against it. Its partly why I did the post - I know lots of people who visit feel the same as me and are doing everything they can so it wasn't aimed at them. It has just concerned me when I speak to people how few seem to know anything about it but would be against it if they knew. Haven't a clue how many visits to my blog are casual but I just hope the post does raise some awareness.

Well done on putting the Brian May petition link on your blog btw!! Would do same if I had a clue how to go about it. With my inability to even provide links, bold, italic, etc., in posts, I would fail and probably end up losing my blog!!! :)

Every time I write to my MP I wait weeks for a reply but to be fair my letter is forwarded onto DEFRA and then months later I eventually get a reply from them with the usual nonsensical answers to questions.

So agree with everything you say in your last paragraph - and this is what concerns me about the badger cull - where will they move next? The buzzard nest destruction licence issue was awful (and the other issues you mention) I was tempted to do a post on that as well!!If I had more time I think I would start another blog on these matters!

Thanks again Jan :)

Countryside Tales Welcome and thank you so much for your comment and signing the petition :)

Thank you too for adding a link to my blog - very much appreciated.

I am so glad you have left a comment because it has led me to your wonderful blog - thank you so much for your lovely comments on my post and for helping to publicise the "cause". Really appreciated :)

I hope you don't mind if I also add your blog to my list. I really loved your piece on grass snakes - brilliant writing :) Much as I like snakes I think my reaction would have been the same :)

Thanks again.

David Turner - Thank you so much :) I do agree with your feelings about livestock farmers. The more I read on the matter it seems that relaxation in testing cattle and cattle movements regs etc. in the past seem to to have led to the increase. I worry that the carrot has been dangled in front of farmers and they have false hopes of what will be achieved via the cull. Many farmers have come out against the cull and believe vaccination is the way forward - sadly the Govt cancelled 5 out of 6 badger vaccine trials I believe.

There are so many alternative ways to eradicate bTB without resorting to culling.

Thanks so much again :)

Em Parkinson said...

It's an futile and disgraceful act and I totally agree with everything you've said. I haven't signed the Brian May thing but am off to do so now....

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much :) Thanks too for signing the petition - the more signatures the better :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Hi there!

I recv'd your comment. The link didn't allow me to sign but I was able to navigate to a place that did. Thanks for the heads up. It may have been their advertising that sent up the red flag. That does happen from time to time. I hope something positive will happen from this poor decision.

SeagullSuzie said...

Well done for this post. We must not get disheartened or downtrodden-that's what They want. Lots of people care and we must keep the pressure on. Our MPs forget every day, that they are supposed to represent us, not use their position to get what they want or believe in.

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Hi Chris :) Thanks for letting me know you received the comment and thanks for signing the petition too. Sorry again about the problems with the website - I was horrified because I have visited it so many times without problems. Thanks for all the support and I will post a few lines at the end of posts to let people know what is happening if there is any news.

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks for your comment and welcome :) I just felt I had to do something more to try and stop - hopefully every little thing will help. I am so angry about it all. Will be interesting to see how the voting goes today in the Opposition Debate.

Thanks for the follow too. I have just visited your great blog - so glad you commented and I have found it :) Was so interested to read about your dragonfly emerging from your pond - we witnessed this in our pond last year times. It was wonderful :) Will add you to my blog list - hope that's ok.

Thanks again :)

ShySongbird said...

Hi again Caroline :-) I watched the debate today (although I missed part of it when the phone rang) and I'm sure that you, like me, are very disappointed, though not altogether surprised, by the outcome. I expect we will get the obligatory letter full of meaningless waffle from our MPs now but at least we can say we tried and perhaps the pressure of protests may still have some sort of effect eventually.

Thanks for your generous reply to my comment and sincere apologies for my misleading mention of a Buzzard 'cull', I should of course, as you did, have said Buzzard nest destruction. I was too caught up with the Badger and Lesser Black-backed Gull culls and the fact that it is feared the Buzzard nest destruction could in time lead to a cull. It was a shoddy mistake and I'm so glad you (very diplomatically) picked up on it :-) I had started my comment much earlier in the day and kept getting interrupted so left your page open and it was around midnight when I wrote the last paragraph, far too late to think straight, that'll teach me ;-)

Ragged Robin said...

ShySongbird - Hi again Jan :) Yes, I watched most of it apart from zipping out to get some papers (not doing much housework this week!!!).I am afraid I was doing a lot of shouting at tv screen at the usual myths and untruths being spouted at times!!

Dreadfully disappointing as you say but as Tories had the whips out not at all surprising. We have to carry on fighting Jan otherwise the slaughter will eventually roll out across the whole country. I just hope e-petition numbers keep rising especially when it actually starts. The vote today wouldn't have been legally binding anyway - although little consolation :(

To be honest Jan I really didn't notice that you had said buzzard cull. I just automatically used phrase nest destruction. I wouldn't have dreamed of pointing out mistake even if I had noticed it :) Please don't worry about it - there is that much culling going on its not surprising especially with all the interruptions you had!!!. At the end of the day I think they would probably like to turn it into culling if they thought they could get away with it. I read recently that they shot 6 ruddy ducks recently somewhere in Birmingham - so that cull continues too.

Feel very down tonight as I do fear for the future of English wildlife - badgers, buzzards, bees, obstruction over creating marine conservation zones etc. etc.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Caroline :-) Sorry to bother you yet again but just wanted to say thanks for the extra info on Ryton Meadows. Hopefully, when we get back we will be able to find it now :-) Thanks also for your kind words about getting out in the nice weather. The pollen situation definitely doesn't help my breathing difficulties but I take my chances when I can and we have managed a few walks recently which I should post about but to be honest I keep wondering whether to give blogging up as I'm not doing it justice any more and it's all so time consuming and housework has totally gone to pot!! Would miss all the lovely people like yourself though :-)

So sorry you lost another Blue Tit chick :-(

P.S. I put this here as I wrote a similar comment on the 'Moths and Scarecrows' post yesterday evening just after my comment above. I think I must have forgotten to hit the publish button though, but just in case you didn't spot it waiting to be moderated I thought it best to put this one on your latest post. If the other one does turn up just scrap whichever you please...or both :-) :-)

Ragged Robin said...


Hi Jan :) Lovely to hear from you again - I really enjoy your comments so please post as many as you wish :) So glad the Ryton Meadows info was useful. If you visit BC Warks and the reserve page there is a link to a map and from that you can see the entry points to the BC Reserve.

I am really pleased you have been able to get out a bit recently although really sorry about the effect hay fever has on you :(.

I do so hope you carry on blogging Jan - your posts are always so special and something to look forward to and I know so many people, including myself :), would so miss your beautiful photos and words. Please don't think I am putting you under any pressure though because I know myself how time consuming blogging is. I have posted far less this year (due to mum situation although thank goodness we haven't got to sell/clear house at moment!) and find it increasingly hard to motivate myself so I can understand how you feel. I seem to remember you have been blogging for a lot longer than me too :)

If you do consider stopping please don't delete your blog but leave it for all to revisit and enjoy. Perhaps you could consider if you do really think of giving it up (hope you don't think I'm being interfering!) having a short break of 3 or 6 months or whatever and see how you feel then. But as I said above I really do hope you don't give it all up - you would be sorely missed by so many. In fact I can't bear the thought :( and I do hope you would keep in touch whatever happened. I feel as though I have made such a lovely friend albeit in "blogland".

Please feel free Jan at any time to email me (ciraggedrobins@gmail.com) if you would ever prefer.

Can empathise about the housework - the older I get the less motivation I have! :) Have to keep telling myself it will still be there next week whether I do it or not!!!!! Plus I am trying to declutter (books magazines OU stuff) but my heart isn't it as I really want don't want to get rid of anything. So its taking me for ever and a day.

I was wrong about the Blue Tit chick - I think we stil have six :) It is really hard to count at times as four are massive and two tiny and the bigger ones tend to sit on and obscure the others. I think fledging (at least for biggest four) must be close.

Have double checked under Comments and my gmail (where I get notification) and I can't see your comment from yesterday under Moths and Scarecrows. I don't think it matters which post you use to comment on my set up as they just appear under Comments in chronological order waiting for approval.

Take care Jan and look after yourself.