‘Badger cull will comply with Bern Convention – Defra’

Posted on September 5, 2012

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Yesterday (4th September), an item was posted on the Farmers Guardian web-site titled ‘Badger cull will comply with Bern Convention – Defra’.

‘… DEFRA has insisted that the pilot badger culls due to commence this autumn will meet the conditions of the Bern Convention, after it came under renewed pressure to halt the policy.

A number of high profile celebrities, including Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Jilly Cooper, Bill Oddie and Brian May, have written to Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman calling on the Government to postpone the two pilot badger culls.

The culls are due to commence in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset in the ‘early autumn’.

But in an open letter, 16 people – a mix of celebrities, wildlife experts and animal welfare campaigners – say the culls should be delayed until the Council of Europe’s Bern Convention on wildlife and natural habitats has considered a formal complaint submitted by Humane Society International/UK (HSI UK).

According to HSI UK, the Bern council has stated that it was not satisfied with Defra’s initial response to its complaint and the matter is on the agenda for the committee’s meeting in September. It is possible, however, that it will not be fully considered until a further meeting in November, many weeks after the cull is due to start.

Mark Jones, executive director of HSI UK said the campaigned believed that ‘randomly shooting these shy creatures at night with high velocity rifles’ must breach of the wildlife convention. “As a signatory to Bern, it is only right and proper that the UK Government delay the slaughter until the Convention has considered the evidence,” he said.

This concern was raised earlier this year in a scientific paper by former members of the Independent Scientific Group on Bovine TB, Christl Donnelly and Rosie Woodroffe.

In a paper published in Nature earlier this year, they claimed it will be difficult to estimate the proportion of badgers culled within a given area due to ‘uncertain’ badger population data. This makes it likely either too few badgers will be culled, risking increasing bTB levels in cattle, or too many, risking ‘eradicating local badger populations completely’ and breaching the Bern Convention.

Defra has been in discussion with the Bern Convention on the issue and a Defra spokesperson insisted that steps have been taken to ensure compliance. For example:

· Culling will only take place in the localised disease hotspot areas and with a maximum of 10 licences granted each year.

· The licence will specify the maximum number of badgers that may be removed from the control area each year – with an upper limit of around 70 per cent – and badger populations will be monitored to ensure that there is no local disappearance.

· If badger activity is found to be very low, culling could be stopped in some or all of the culling area for the remainder of that year to prevent local extinction.

A Defra spokesman said: “The UK takes its responsibilities under the Bern Convention very seriously and we are confident our plans are consistent with its requirements.”

In a separate legal challenge, the Badger Trust’s appeal against the High Court decision, announced in July, that the cull is lawful is due to be heard in London’s court of appeal next Tuesday (September 11).

The NFU has said that, if Defra prevails in the case, the culls should be ready to commence ‘fairly quickly’ in the two selected pilot areas.

Signatories to the open letter:
Mark Jones, Executive Director, Humane Society International UK
Chris Packham, naturalist & broadcaster
Ian Redmond OBE, biologist & conservationist
Bill Oddie OBE, naturalist & broadcaster
Mark Carwardine, zoologist & broadcaster
Nick Baker, naturalist & broadcaster
Mike Dilger, ecologist & broadcaster
Dame Judi Dench
Joanna Lumley OBE
Dale Vince OBE, CEO Ecotricity
Brian May CBE, musician and founder of Save Me
Jilly Cooper, author & journalist
Gavin Grant, RSPCA
Philip Mansbridge, Care for the Wild International
Joe Duckworth, League Against Cruel Sports
Lorraine Platt, Conservatives Against Fox Hunting …’

Read the item and add your comment online at www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/dairy-industry-crisis/badger-cull-will-comply-with-bern-convention-defra/49377.article

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