‘8 things you should know about the badger cull’

Posted on September 18, 2012

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Today (18th September), the Lancashire Badger Group posted an item on their web-site titled ‘8 things you should know about the badger cull’.

‘… 1. It’s not ‘just’ a pilot

Roughly 3,000 badgers will be shot in each area.  11,000 badgers have been killed and £40million has already been spent (The Randomised Badger Culling Trial) to determine whether badger culling works to reduce btb.  This new ‘pilot’ will not test the reduction in btb using the new methods (free shooting of badgers at night). We will never know if it works on those terms. It is a test to find out whether they can kill 70% of the badgers in the cull area, and kill them humanely. Not whether this method will reduce btb. If the government decide that they can achieve their kill rate without wounding too many this will be rolled out across the South West, killing up to 130,000 badgers.

2. At best it can only achieve a 16% reduction in new incidences of btb.

The RBCT experiment found that at best, using exactly the same methods, over 9 years, culling could reduce the increase in the  incidence (not the overall amount of btb) by 16%.  This is what’s called a relative reduction, not an absolute reduction. Something else therefore, other than badgers is causing the background rise in btb.  The scientists involved in the RBCT and the ISG do not believe that the new method of culling can achieve this. In fact they believe it could make the situation worse (but no-one will be measuring that…).

3. Nobody knows how many badgers there are.

But estimates suggest there are 300,000 in England. This means that if the cull is rolled out, we stand to lose 1/3 of our badgers.  The majority of which will be healthy.   Plus, there is no way of knowing for sure how many badgers are killed or wounded.  According to the Bern convention it would be illegal to cause local extinction. Without an accurate count of badgers, there is a risk this could happen.

4. There IS a vaccine for cattle and badgers.

Badgers are being vaccinated now by injection and an oral vaccine should be ready in two years. This vaccine has shown a 74% reduction in badgers testing positive for bovine tb and does not cause badgers to leave their territory and spread the disease further.  There is a cattle vaccine which is being used in Ethiopia and has shown positive results (much better than the result that can be achieved with a cull). We currently can’t use it because of EU regulations. Why is our government not putting pressure on the EU to allow it’s use?

5. Culling badgers will not result in healthy badgers.

The RBCT found that culling badgers increases the level of the disease in the remaining population. You may have less badgers, but a higher proportion of them will be carrying the disease than before.  This means that all the years of culling and gassing over the last 50 years have been making the situation worse.

6. Badgers rarely die of bovine tb.

Very few badgers, even in hotspot areas of the South West are even infected with bovine tb. Of those, only a very small percentage will become ill and therefore infectious. The vast majority of infected badgers are more likely to die of other causes. If this were not the case, badger groups across the country would be dealing with tb on a daily basis. They aren’t.

7. You may have heard ‘No country in the world has beaten bovine tb without addressing the disease in wildlife’.

This refers mainly to possums in New Zealand. Possums do not live in settled territories like badgers, they roam over much greater distances and interact with many other possums and species.  Possums are also a pest species in New Zealand, not a native species. They were killed by dropping poisoned bait from the air. Poison is indiscriminate and has killed many of New Zealand native and protected wildlife. You cannot compare apples with oranges, or possums with badgers due to their very different ecology and behaviour.

8. The ISG report recommended cattle and biosecurity measures alone.

The ISG’s final report in 2007 based on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that culling was not an effective option, even if conducted rigorously and systematically. The ISG  analysed various strategies that could be pursued at lower cost – including licensing farmers to conduct a cull, rather than having it co-ordinated by government.

It concluded: “We consider it likely that licensing farmers (or their appointees) to cull badgers would not only fail to achieve a beneficial effect, but would entail a substantial risk of increasing the incidence of cattle TB and spreading the disease.” …’

Read the item and add your comment online at www.lancashirebadgergroup.org.uk/2012/09/18/8-things-you-should-know-about-the-badger-cull/

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