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Badger culling can’t be justified

Thursday 14th September 2017

Badger, Andrew MasonBadger, Andrew Mason

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is deeply concerned and saddened that the badger cull is being extended this year, including to a neighbouring county, Cheshire – a decision that goes against scientific advice.

Badger culls have been given the go-ahead in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Somerset. Almost 15,000 badgers have been killed since culls began in 2013 [1]. We are concerned that this culling is putting local populations of badgers at risk in affected parts of the British countryside. The Wildlife Trusts urge Natural England to publish the information they hold on the impact of the badger cull on the wider environment.* In addition we urge the Government to carry out tests on all badgers shot for bovine TB – at the moment this is not happening.

Collectively, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to stop killing badgers. This will not eradicate Bovine TB in cattle.

The Wildlife Trusts’ Director Steve Trotter says: “A healthy wildlife rich natural world is valuable in its own right, and badgers are an important part of our countryside and culture. We work closely with many farmers, day in, day out, and we recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bovine tuberculosis (bTB), but killing badgers will not solve the problem. Badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle: the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact[2]. The Government's badger cull is flying in the face of science. It should be putting more resources into speeding up the development of an effective cattle vaccine, amongst other measures.”

In Derbyshire, the Trust have been vaccinating badgers since 2014, and this year have just celebrated vaccinating the 100th badger of the season. The Trust developed the badger vaccination programme with a number of partners including the National Trust and the Derbyshire Badger Groups, and has been working with famers and landowners to ensure vaccinations are successful.

Tim Birch, Head of Living Landscapes North has been calling for a cattle vaccine to be developed, Tim said, “A cattle vaccine needs to be top priority to tackle Bovine Tuberculosis, not badger culling. It costs far less to vaccinate badgers rather than shoot them so it makes financial sense. More worryingly, culling badgers can actually cause Bovine TB to increase in an area according to scientific studies in what is known as the perturbation effect where badgers are scattered through the landscape away from the cull zone [3]. We believe there needs to be several measures of control that work alongside each other, badger vaccination, cattle vaccination and better biosecurity and cattle movement controls. The badger cull will not eradicate Bovine TB in cattle.

A cattle vaccine needs to be top priority to tackle Bovine Tuberculosis, not badger culling

A shortage of BCG vaccine put a temporary halt to badger vaccination in 2016 and Defra did not find alternatives. But this year Derbyshire Wildlife Trust sourced vaccine independently and re-commenced badger vaccination. The latest figures† show that on average it costs a Wildlife Trust just £82 to vaccinate an animal, as compared to the cull which cost £6,800 per badger between 2012-2014[4].

The Government spent almost £450,000 on communications equipment alone to support the culls between 2016-2017[5]. This money could have been invested in cattle vaccine research or used to vaccinate nearly 5,500 badgers.

The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to: 

• Stop the policy of badger culling and instead significantly increase resources so that a national vaccination programme of badgers can begin

• Establish a full and independent inquiry into whether the culls to date have achieved their intended outcomes in reducing bTB in cattle

• Advance the development of a cattle vaccine, and complete the development of and licence the use of oral baited vaccine in badgers.

• Develop better biosecurity, bTB testing and cattle movement controls


How you can help

You can help badgers by supporting badger cull alternatives, such as badger vaccination. Please donate today to help Derbyshire Wildlife Trust continue vaccinations across the county in an attempt to prove to the Government that vaccination, alongside cattle vaccine is a viable alternative to the cull.

Donate today.

Media enquiries

Contact Kaite Helps at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188.

For more information on a national level contact Emma Robertshaw The Wildlife Trusts Tel: 01636 670015 / 07779 657515 or Adam Cormack 01636 670063 / 07824 846204 

 

Editors Notes

Which Wildlife Trusts are currently vaccinating badgers? Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust; Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Badger Vaccination: Whilst vaccination doesn’t cure a badger of bTB it does slow the progression of the disease in an individual animal, and lowers the likelihood that the infection will be passed on. Badger vaccination can reduce the chance that a badger will test positive for bTB by as much as 76% (1). The Wildlife Trusts welcome the Government’s announcement that there will be enough supplies of vaccine to allow Defra’s Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to resume in 2018.

Cull Zones: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra, has granted licenses in England to cull badgers where there’s a high risk of cattle being infected with bTB. Badgers are being culled because they can carry bovine Tb and pass on the disease to other animals; however, badgers are not the main route of infection for farmers’ herds - that comes from cattle to cattle contact. There are now 21 cull zones in eight counties: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Somerset.

References: 

1These figures are available on the Gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/bovine-tuberculosis-bovine-tb 

*The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) this summer ruled that Natural England must release this information or face the High Court. You can see the Information Commission Office’s decision notice here: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2017/2014420/fer0659789.pdf 

2Carter et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833

3 Stephen P Carter et al, November 7th, 2007 Culling-induced social perturbation in Eurasian badgers Meles meles and the management of TB in cattle: an analysis of a critical problem in applied ecology. Proceeding of the Royal Society. †Figures newly compiled from 2015 Wildlife Trust vaccination schemes LINK

4These figures were provided in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which is available in full on the Gov.uk website. NB: The exact figure is £6785. 

5The Government publishes all spending over £25,000 here: https://data.gov.uk/dataset/financial-transactions-data-defra