Sunday, 5 July 2009

Badger cull - please respond before 30th July

Baby badgers being fed

As readers may know, Elin Jones of the Welsh Assembly Government recently stated her intention to go ahead with the - as near as possible - total eradication of badgers in North Pembrokeshire, as part of a raft of measures in that area against bovine TB. WAG have now put up a Public Consultation on their website.

All concerned members of the public, and all environmental and wildlife organisations, are urged to respond as soon as possible, and to inform friends, colleagues, workmates and environmental groups (whether inside or outside Wales) to ask them to do the same. It is vital that WAG realise that the general public are well-informed about this issue and will not simply accept the wholesale slaughter of one of our most valued native mammals.

Apart from the ethical and environmental implications of eradicating such an important native mammal from such a large area, there is a great deal of evidence to show that, while cattle measures bring down the TB rate, badger culling actually makes matters worse. The internationally validated ISG study, based on 10 years of scientific research and costing over 12,000 badger lives, concluded unequivocally that 'badger culling has no meaningful part to play in TB control in Britain'.

In spite of this, there will be no attempt to evaluate the success of badger culling as distinct from the improved cattle testing, husbandry and biosecurity measures also being implemented. Instead, if TB rates go down in that area (as they almost certainly will as the result of the cattle measures, which have been shown to be successful elswhere) WAG will consider applying the same package, including badger eradication, in other areas of Wales. It is depressing that WAG operates in such a short-sighted and cruel way.

Tips on objecting
Go to the Public Consultation on the WAG website. (The Consultation Document proper is a downloadable document at the bottom of the page that the link goes to.)

There are 5 sections to the Consultation Document:
  1. Introduction
  2. ‘Background Information’
  3. ‘Badger Control Strategies’
  4. 6 questions – This is where your responses come in
  5. Details on how to respond. Can be done online to
    or in writing to:
    TB Team
    Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer
    Department of Rural Affairs
    Welsh Assembly Government
    Cathays park
    Cardiff CF10 3NQ
Below are the questions and some useful points to use in responses (although responses should obviously be your own and in your own words). Italics are explanatory only and not in the original text. It is also worth reading 'Facing senseless slaughter: the fate of Wales’ badgers'.

Q1 Is Government the most appropriate body to manage the delivery of these strategies (destruction of badgers or possible vaccination in the future) or are there alternatives that should be considered?
  • No. No body is appropriate for an inappropriate badger culling policy.
  • ONLY Govt. employees should even be considered for carrying out culling and/or vaccination as otherwise unacceptably open to cruelty/abuse/trapping and/or selling of badgers for baiting. Inefficient shooting leading to appalling and extended suffering (and probable perturbation ie scattering of wounded or surviving badgers) – likelihood of badgers being left for very extended periods of time (incl daylight) in cages, also causing appalling suffering.
  • What plans are there for policing possible abuses/ ensuring minimum welfare standards?
  • What plans for training of operatives?
  • Who will ensure that badgers are not killed rather than vaccinated even if/when vaccination introduced?
Q2 Do you agree that these are the most humane and appropriate ways (of killing badgers – trapping in a cage and either shooting or using a lethal injection or shooting without prior cage trapping) or should other methods be included?
  • No. There is NO humane method of killing badgers in the wild. All methods involve extreme, unacceptable and extended suffering. Trapping in a cage involves an inevitably long period (overnight at the very least and in many cases much longer) of serious mental and physical distress. Badgers are timid nocturnal creatures who avoid humans and will be utterly terrified to be trapped and exposed (and to be kept away from parents and offspring as badger cubs stay with their parents for at least the first year). There will be no protection against deliberate or casual cruelty of any kind.
  • Inaccurate shooting ( at a distance and often in the dark or at dusk) especially by untrained and unskilled farmers and other operatives will lead to unacceptable and drawn out suffering, as well as perturbation.
  • The fact that other methods (snaring, gassing) are even more barbaric does NOT justify the suggested methods.
Q3 Where the disease is endemic, do you agree that the destruction of badgers (alongside cattle measures) is necessary to have an impact in the short to medium term? Should other strategies be included in this order?
  • No. As well as being ethically unacceptable, the destruction of badgers will have a purely negative impact both ecologically and in terms of disease control. This backed up by 10 year, internationally peer-reviewed scientific ISG trials which established that culling actually made matters worse, and can ‘make no meaningful contribution to TB control’ anywhere in Britain.
  • This has been borne out by experience in S. Ireland where culling of 60,000 badgers has resulted in virtually the same infection rate amongst cattle as before the culling started. Also by N. Ireland where the infection rate has been reduced by 49% since 2002 without any badger culling at all.
  • Strategies that should be in this order are stricter cattle movement controls than at present; improved and more appropriate and effective husbandry and biosecurity; improved and more accurate and more frequent testing of cattle; effective sanctions for contravention of all the above and stricter conditions for compensation payments (ie payment should be conditional on full movement/biosecurity compliance). Further, WAG should use the money that would have been used in culling badgers to fund proper and continuing scientific research into the epidemiology of the disease and ways in which the general health of cattle can be improved to enable them to resist not only TB, but also the numerous other causes of premature death amongst cattle in Wales which far outweigh deaths from TB infection.
  • Since there will be no pre- or post-culling tests of Tb infection in the badgers killed, and all methods, including cattle controls, will be applied in the same area, and since there will be no control areas, it will be impossible to evaluate the effectiveness or otherwise of badger culling. This ‘pilot’ therefore has no validity either in scientific or common-sense terms.
Q4 Do you agree with these offences (concealing or protecting badgers, obstructing or interfering in any way with destruction) and/or should others be included?
  • No, I do not agree that any of the above should be an offence. The vagueness of the wording makes it highly probable that this would lead to the abuse of basic human rights.
  • It should be an offence to in any way aid, abet, allow, incite or otherwise encourage any cruelty – whether intentional or otherwise – towards badgers (or any wildlife) in the affected areas.
Q5 Do you agree that the development of a badger vaccination policy should be pursued and therefore included within this order?
  • Since studies show that the best policy re. TB control is to leave badgers alone, and since TB infection rates go down in badgers when they are left alone, vaccination not necessary. However, if WAG insists on involving badgers, vaccination is an infinitely preferable policy to culling.
Q6 Do you agree that authorized persons should be able to enter land for the purpose of vaccinating badgers?
  • See above, better to leave badgers alone. Acceptable ONLY if WAG pursues this as the only alternative to culling. Certainly not acceptable if used as an adjunct to culling, or same powers are used for culling.
[The text in this blog post was modified from an 'Aberystwyth Against the Badger Cull' group email.]

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