The announcement that the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has approved 11 new badger cull licenses in England is a disgrace that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with winning votes from the farming community.
This was the message from Network for Animals (NFA) chief campaigner, David Barritt, who is shocked by the disdain the UK government has shown towards scientists and the animal-loving public in taking this decision.
“It’s clear that neither scientific reasoning nor constant pressure from animal lovers will end the horror of the badger cull. Only a change in government will stop the madness,” said Barritt.
Scientists know that badgers transmit bovine tuberculosis (TB) to cattle, but only about 6% of affected herds acquire infection in this way – the other 94% are infected by other cattle herds. Scientists have also raised serious concerns that, although killing badgers lowers numbers, it also causes surviving badgers to range more widely, so that they encounter other badgers and cattle over wider areas. In certain circumstances, say scientists, badger culling could increase the incidence of bovine TB in cattle, rather than reducing it.
“In spite of the fact that there is no incontrovertible evidence that the badger cull will have any impact on bovine TB in the UK, Defra continues to roll out its 25-year TB strategy, and badger killing is a central pillar of the strategy,” said Barritt.
As a result of the major expansion of the badger cull announced last week, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last five years of the badger cull combined.
The 11 licenses have expanded cull zones in Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset. The cull has also been newly expanded into the areas of Staffordshire and Cumbria.
NFA and other members of Team Badger – a coalition of national, local and grass roots animal and wildlife welfare organisations representing millions of compassionate British citizens – are horrified by the fact that many badgers die long, painful deaths.
“There is no effective, independent monitoring of the cull contractors,” explained Barritt, adding that shooting badgers has been condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.
Animal welfare organisations have also raised concerns over the trapping of badgers for up to 12 hours in cages during the heat wave in Gloucestershire and Somerset, under existing supplementary cull licences which have been in operation since June.
“We are shocked by the Defra announcement, but we won’t stop the fight,” said Barritt. Together with our coalition partners, we will continue to reject the badger cull as unsound, unscientific and unacceptable.”