Friday, 23 March 2012

Welsh badger cull scrapped

Fantastic news, the plans to kill protected wildlife in Wales have been scrapped! (See also here and here).

The Environment Minister John Griffiths took a science-led, sensible, and practical decision on bovine TB. Combined with the tighter cattle measures introduced by the last government, his proposal will hopefully address the problem in a proper scientific coherent manner. No doubt he has been under pressure from some anti-wildlife elements of the farming lobby, but he listened to all the people of Wales who were against the culling of a protected species, rather than a vested-interest minority.

In a surprising twist, the former Rural Affairs minister Elin Jones (Plaid Cymru) caused controversy with her silly and deplorable reactionary comments in the Plenary session on 20th March, for which she rightly received wide-spread censure. She said: "Farmers will now have to decide how best to protect their cattle and I for one would not blame them for anything they do."

So she won't blame farmers for breaking the law? For illegally killing protected wildlife such as badgers? What if a farmer were to go out and shoot a WAG minister? According to her statement, she would not blame the farmer. It is amazing that at a time when peaceful protesters are labelled terrorists, government Assembly Members can advocate lawlessness!

Badgers are a protected species. Badger baiting with dogs has been illegal since the last century, digging for badgers was made illegal by the Badger Act 1973 and badger setts were protected in 1991. It is now illegal to kill, injure or take a badger, to possess a dead badger or anything derived from it, or to interfere with a sett without a licence from a statutory authority. The main legislation protecting badgers in England and Wales is the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Under the 1992 Act it is an offence to:
  • wilfully kill, injure, take or attempt to kill, injure or take a badger;
  • possess a dead badger or any part of a badger;
  • cruelly ill-treat a badger;
  • use badger tongs in the course of killing, taking or attempting to kill a badger;
  • dig for a badger;
  • sell or offer for sale or control any live badger;
  • mark, tag or ring a badger; 
  • interfere with a badger sett by damaging it, obstructing access to it, causing a dog to enter it, or disturbing a badger while occupying a sett.
The 1992 Act defines a badger sett as: “any structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger”. Yet Elin Jones implied that she would support farmers doing these illegal activities.

The tighter cattle control measures already have a positive impact on reducing TB incidences in the hotspot areas, and this new vaccine programme will hopefully mean the issue of bovine TB can be tackled in a sensible, legal, scientific and practical manner. Unfortunately the negative reactionary response from Elin Jones and from many farmers (apart from all those who actually were against the cull), will possibly jeopardise the scientific approach. Farmers can 'best protect' their cattle by employing proper bio-security measures, good animal husbandry, not swapping tags on infected cattle (as has been found has happened in Wales), and by respecting the wildlife and the countryside.

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