Thursday, 2 June 2011

Increased pressure to reverse the cruel badger cull

Joyce Watson, Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, recently sent the letter below to John Griffiths, the new Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development in the Welsh Government. It concerns the former Rural Affairs Minister’s decision to carry out a cull of badgers in west Wales. Thankfully because Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones lost her post there may be an opportunity for positive change, and Elin's plans for cruel and unscientific culls may be overturned. Anyone who cares about badgers will be pleased with the content of the letter.

Dear John,

I am writing to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development. I know that you will bring the same force of direction and diligence that you applied to your role in the previous administration of Wales.

Now we have our new Labour administration, I believe it is important for us to look afresh at decisions made by the previous One Wales administration and to set new priorities.

I must ask you to revisit the previous Rural Affairs Minister’s decision to carry out a cull of badgers in west Wales.

While there are strong feelings on both sides of this debate, a mass cull of a protected species would only be justified if it could be proved that such action would eliminate or substantially reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. I do not believe that this case has been proved.

When the previous Minister launched the consultation on the badger cull order, she stated that through culling alone she expects ‘to have reduced bovine TB in cattle in the area by approximately 22%’, preventing an estimated 83 confirmed herd breakdowns that would otherwise have occurred in the absence of culling badgers in the area.’ But as the Badger Trust have pointed out, an extrapolation of the last two years’ figures, for 2008 and 2009, for Dyfed means that there will be 6,255 breakdowns over 10 years. Therefore, 83 over that period would be 13 in a 1,000, which is not substantial in my opinion.

What we have seen is a reduction in incidences of TB in cattle through improved cattle-side measures. The figures published for the period between January and November 2010 show a reduction of 34 per cent over the equivalent period in 2009. Since 2008, the proportion of cattle slaughtered in west Wales is down by a projected 41 per cent.

This significant improvement has been achieved through improved surveillance, improved cattle disease controls and a regional approach without any badgers having been destroyed.

I urge you to build on the success of the cattle-side measures and to investigate the efficacy and practicability of a wildlife vaccine – an injectable badger vaccine is already available, and this has been shown in laboratory and field trials to reduce badger infectivity by 74 per cent.

I also urge you to heed the findings of the Independent Scientific Group. The Group’s final paper on the results of the randomised badger culling trial found that there is no long-term benefit of badger culling on the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. The paper concludes:

‘Our findings show that the reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain.’

Good luck in your new post and I look forward to working closely with you on this and other matters, for the benefit of west Wales.

Yours sincerely,

Joyce Watson AM/AC

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