‘Former Defra adviser brands badger cull “unacceptable”‘

Posted on September 10, 2012

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Today (10th September), an item was posted on the Farmers Guardian web-site titled ‘Former Defra adviser brands badger cull “unacceptable”‘.

‘… DEFRA has defended the science behind the planned autumn badger culling pilots after a former adviser to the Department on badger ecology claimed the policy was “unacceptable”.

Chris Cheeseman, former head of wildlife diseases at the Central Science Laboratory who carried out extensive research on badgers at Woodchester Park, in Gloucestershire, has issued a statement in support of the Humane Society International UK’s (HSI UK) campaign to stop the culls in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.

Dr Cheeseman said: “This government claims that their policy is science-led but I’m afraid it’s not. It could lead to the deaths of – using their figures – up to 130,000 badgers over a few years to achieve an overall, at best, 16 percent reduction in cattle TB. Now there are those of us in the scientific community who actually think the cull will make it worse, and I suggest that’s an unacceptable policy.”

His comments appear in a video released by HSI UK entitled ‘Kill the Cull, Not the Badgers’. In the video, TV broadcaster and naturalist Bill Oddie describes the cull as a ‘truly horrific situation’ in which some badgers will be ‘maimed and they will bleed to death, they will probably crawl underground and die’. ‘

A Defra spokesman insisted the policy is science-led and pointed to a document agreed by a group of scientists brought together by former Defra Chief Scientist Bob Watson in 2011 to show the level of scientific consensus.

“The science is clear, and experts agree that provided culling done in the right way can lead to a reduction in TB in cattle,” the spokesman said.

“The latest results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial have shown that, carried out over a sufficient area and for long enough, culling can reduce the spread of disease to cattle, with benefits remaining for years after the end of the culling period.”

He added that no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too. He said the disease ‘forced the slaughter of more than 26,000 cattle in 2010 alone, and is taking a terrible toll on our farmers and rural communities’.

In an interview with Farmers Guardian earlier this year NFU representatives involved in organising the pilot culls said the culling would be carried out by qualified marksmen, who would undergo special training and would follow strict best practice guidance to ensure it is done as humanely as possible.

HSI UK has also gathered high-profile support for its official complaint to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention).

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

The timing of the pilot culls which are due to commence in the ‘early autumn’ is in question due to a combination of the legal challenges, the new ministerial team at Defra and the impact of the late harvest on preparations on the ground. The organisers stress they are still hoping to start on time, however …’

Read the item and add your comment online at www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/former-defra-adviser-brands-badger-cull-%E2%80%98unacceptable%E2%80%99/49551.article

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