Sunday, 26 September 2010

Ignore Science, Kill the Badgers: the idiots are at it again

Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats are all renewing their vows to use taxpayers' money to slaughter protected wildlife. Yes, despite all the evidence proving that their plans are a waste of money, and despite all the public opposition, they have stated again that they are determined to start killing badgers.

Some information from Pembrokeshire Against the Cull (PAC):
"What are the facts for and against a cull of badgers to reduce TB in cattle? There has been no cull in Scotland but they are free from TB. There was a cull in Ireland but TB remains a major problem and they are trying vaccination. There are no badgers on the island of Anglesey but they have TB. In the area planned for a cull in Wales TB levels have dropped 7% in the first three months of this year- without a cull. The ten years cull trial by Krebs found that culling made the problem worse. Now the Tories are genuflecting before the farmers and planning to let them kill a protected species. It’s politics, not science. The court appeals against culling have been successful. The source of the problem is the very profitable farm-to-farm cattle trade. Badgers stay in one territory. Cattle to cattle infection is the problem that farmers refuse to see. Why should they? Trading cattle makes money. The taxpayers pay the bill for compensation for disease and the legal appeals. In any other industry problems are dealt with through insurance. If farmers became responsible for their own losses they would seek practical solutions. Culling is not one of them.

The Welsh Assembly Government have launched a consultation on new plans to kill badgers in the same area of west Wales as before - now called the Intensive Action Area. Their proposals rule out any option to use vaccination instead of killing badgers in the Intensive Action Area. The plan will apply to all land in the area and use powers to force land owners opposed to killing badgers to allow it to happen on their land."
Some information from Aberystwyth Against the Cull:
"In spite of the court judgement two months ago Elin Jones is trying again to cull badgers with a new order aimed at Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion. Once again the order contains draconian provisions for forcing landowners to allow culling on their land.

At the same time the Coalition Government in England has declared its intention to grant licenses allowing farmers to kill badgers themselves over huge areas. Horrifyingly, they are suggesting allowing farmers or 'contractors' to shoot free-running badgers.

So, a renewed assault on all sides. Both governments have started the Public Consultation procedure (yet again). The last public consultation by the UK government in 2006 received an overwhelming response against culling - over 47,500 individual written or emailed responses from those who opposed the cull ie over 96% of all responses. This expression of strong public opinion, along with the unequivocal results and conclusions from the ten year RCBT (ISG) trials against culling, clearly influenced ongoing UK Government policy until the advent of the current Coalition government.

Both the new UK government and the Welsh Assembly Government appear determined to ignore the scientific evidence (and the recent court judgement) and force through a discredited culling policy regardless of its effect on wildlife, tourism and other rural sources of income, and the opinion and convictions of most sections of our society apart from a narrow but powerful farming and veterinary lobby (primarily driven by the farming unions). Of course we sympathise with farmers hit by disease outbreaks but don't feel it would help to condone a policy which will actually make matters worse and which flies in the face of science and common sense.

[Of the consultation documents]: the Defra one especially is presented in a very biased way, with many half-truths, misleading and inaccurate statements. This represents a serious and sustained attack on one of our oldest native mammals and is an important precedent. If we let this happen we could be seeing the end of any effective protection for any native species."
Some information from the RSPCA:

"The RSPCA remains firmly opposed to any plans for a widespread cull based on current science, welfare concerns and practicality. The society believes the government should listen to public opinion. The new consultation follows a decision by the previous government in 2008 not to embark on a badger cull after the publication of independent scientific advice and a previous consultation which showed overwhelming public opposition.

David Bowles, Director of Communications for the RSPCA, said: “Now is the time to act. The results of the previous consultation show very clearly that a badger cull is not what people want. It is vital that this new government listens to the same message as the last one. Scientific evidence has proved culling would have a limited benefit on the disease and in surrounding areas outside the cull it may increase the disease in cattle.”

The RSPCA is also concerned that in these austere times the government may devolve killing badgers to farmers, which would be a recipe for disaster. The society agrees there is a problem with bovine TB but believes a recently-approved TB vaccine for badgers combined with increasing the level of cattle testing, improving biosecurity and imposing stricter controls on the movement of cattle are the ways most likely to be sustainable and effective in reducing the incidence of bovine TB amongst cattle

Senior RSPCA scientist Colin Booty said: “Our opposition to a badger cull is based on solid science not sentiment. There is compelling evidence which shows a policy of badger culling is unsustainable, and could even worsen the spread of bovine TB due to a process known as perturbation."
CIN will post guidance for responding to these consultations (UK Defra Consultation open until 8th December / WAG Consultation open until 17th December) once it has been made available by the excellent people in the wildlife protection groups. It is important to be very careful in filling in consultations, as Defra and WAG will look for any opportunity to ignore any responses which are anti-cull. As PAC have pointed out:

"Last time the vast majority of anti-cull responses to the WAG consultation were disallowed. WAG received 2,346 replies in some form or other. Of these 1,978 (84%) were opposed to the cull. However, WAG discounted approximately 1600 anti-cull responses. Even then there was still a slight majority against culling - 51% against - with 49% for culling (WAG Summary of Responses para 3.4.1). Despite this WAG claimed public support for its cull strategy.)"
It is worth remembering that all political parties in Wales will want your vote in the Assembly elections in May. Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems (with the exceptions of Peter Black who is very opposed to the cull), and the Conservatives are all pro-cull. Labour, in the UK, are technically against a cull, but in Wales they are in joint power with Plaid Cymru in the Assembly so are technically voting for the cull in Wales. The Green Party remain the only political party consistently opposed to a cull.

For now, have a look at the Back Off Badgers site.

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