‘BADGER CULL: Wildlife Aid Foundation in plea for “rational debate”’

Posted on September 27, 2012

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Yesterday (26th September), the Wildlife Aid Foundation issued a media release which they also posted on their web-site, titled ‘BADGER CULL: Wildlife Aid Foundation in plea for “rational debate”’.

‘… Where is the scientific evidence? asks WAF’s Simon Cowell

Charity seeks proper assessment of long-term impact of culls on wildlife and countryside

The Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF) has called for “a more rational debate” about the current badger culls, “free from prejudices, politics, and unscientific theories”.

WAF founder-director Simon Cowell MBE said: “Since the first cull licences were issued last week, there has been a lot of anger from people on both sides of the debate, and it’s not getting us very far. Most discussions in the media and in political forums are generating more heat than light! It is high time we sat down and looked at the facts.”

Simon says that WAF is against the cull and has taken this position not just because of its concern for wildlife welfare and conservation but also because “the science doesn’t support the need for a cull”. He explained: “The ‘evidence base’ that the Government is using is very flimsy indeed. If we can have a sensible debate about this, the weaknesses of the case for a cull will be shown up.”

The key questions that need to be asked, says Simon, are: “whether or not the cull will have a big and measurable impact in terms of reducing TB, and whether England’s badger population can withstand the effects of large-scale slaughter. I don’t think the evidence supports the Government’s position on either question.”

Simon points out that Defra (the Government’s Dept for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) has already admitted that it could take nine years to achieve any meaningful reduction in Bovine TB through the badger cull. “It will take four years of culling and then a further five years with the much-reduced badger populations, and only after that might a 16% reduction in Bovine TB be achieved. Defra is very reluctant to admit this, but it’s in the small print of their report for those of us who have taken the trouble to read it,” says Simon.

There are some “frightening admissions by the Government” in the official documentation about the cull. One, explains Simon, is “the statement by Defra that there is ’considerable uncertainty about the badger populations’ in the target areas for the culls. How then can Defra expect the cull to take out between 70 and 80 per cent of the badgers in the cull areas if they don’t know how many badgers there are to start with?!”

Shooting and trapping licences have been issued to farmers without any direction as to how many badgers can or should be killed. There is also considerable doubt about the security precautions that those carrying out the culling are expected to take, and whether these are being properly policed to ensure public safety.

“Everything is too vague,” says Simon. “And this is not surprising, as the Government’s culling strategy is based on such flimsy evidence. For example, there is a very frank admission in the Defra document on the cull that: ‘the exact incidence of Bovine TB in cattle caused by badgers is not known’. Yes the whole strategy is based on not even knowing whether badgers are a major cause of Bovine TB or not! And they won’t find out from the cull because there are no plans to test the dead badgers afterwards.”

Simon said: “This is all totally unscientific, and it is no wonder that when we hear spokesmen for the Government or from the National Farmers Union in the media defending the cull all they can say is that they believe the cull will work. It won’t. It can’t. It’s built on a lie.”

He added: “The biggest insult is that, whilst here in England the Government and the NFU are pinning all their hopes for the future of cattle farming on killing tens of thousands of badgers, over the border in Wales they have a more sensible policy of vaccinating badgers instead of killing them. If the Welsh can deal with these things in a humane way, why can’t we?” …’

Read the item at www.wildlifeaid.org.uk/articles/press-releases/badger-cull-wildlife-aid-foundation-plea-%E2%80%9Crational-debate%E2%80%9D

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