New badger cull imminent: Wildlife Trusts call for end to flawed policy

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) is opposed to the planned cull in South Herefordshire, as the evidence overwhelmingly supports vaccination of cattle over a badger cull.

The Trust, as part of the federation of Wildlife Trusts, understands the impact that TB has on cattle farmers but thinks that the cull is an inherently flawed policy. It is also a waste of public money that could be better spent in developing a vaccine for cattle. HWT will oppose any decision by Natural England to grant new licences for culling badgers and calls on the Government and the newly appointed Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, to overrule and reverse this decision immediately.

 

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust believes that the combined approach of cattle vaccination and badger vaccination is essential to combat Bovine TB. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary culprits in the spread of TB in cattle: the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact.

Andrew Nixon, Conservation Manager at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, says: “Herefordshire Wildlife Trust believes that the combined approach of cattle vaccination and badger vaccination is essential to combat Bovine TB. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary culprits in the spread of TB in cattle: the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact.

Cattle are vital to the Herefordshire economy, and investment should be made in both vaccination routes – a badger cull diverts attention and funding away from the main solution.”

Today, The Wildlife Trusts’ President Emeritus, Simon King OBE, launched a new e-petition on the Government website calling for an end to the badger cull and no expansion of the cull to new areas. This morning the Government announced that seven new licences for badger culling have been granted, covering parts of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. These areas are in addition to the existing cull areas in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset which are part of a four-year trial cull, as yet incomplete.

Simon King OBE, the new e-petition proposer, says: “Any extension of badger culling into new areas should be prevented. The scientific evidence demonstrates that culling is likely to be ineffective in fighting the disease and risks making the problem even worse. The impact of bovine TB is painful, disruptive and distressing to the lives and businesses of farmers - but culling is not the solution and gives farmers false hope.”

Opinion polls clearly show that the public is overwhelmingly against the killing of badgers. It is also extremely costly and poor value for money. The 2013-14 culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset cost the taxpayer more than £4.9 million in policing costs. This is equivalent to the annual salary costs of over 120 police officers over a two-year period.

Paul Wilkinson, head of Living Landscapes at the federation of Wildlife Trusts, says: “The results of the previous badger culls indicate that this policy is flawed and unsupported by the evidence. Culling has been shown to be more expensive, less effective than other Bovine TB (bTB) control mechanisms and the free-shooting of badgers has been shown to be an inhumane method of killing.”

Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “An expansion of the badger cull to new areas, against the recommendations of scientists and before the completion of a four year trial cull, is surely a bad idea.”

The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to abandon its failed culling policy. An evidence-based approach must be developed and Government must take immediate action to:

  • Reduce cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine TB - the major cause of infection - by tightening movement controls on cattle even further
  • Accelerate research into cattle vaccination
  • Secure alternative sources of badger vaccine and speed up the approval process so that suspended badger vaccination programmes can resume as soon as possible
  • Improve testing regimes for cattle
  • Invest in more research into better techniques for early detection of TB in cattle
  • Ensure higher standards of biosecurity on farms and link this to cross-compliance for subsidy payments

 

The badger cull - background

Badgers are being culled as part of a government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, a disease which devastates thousands of farming businesses annually. Pilot badger culls commenced in 2013 amid fierce opposition. Despite two parliamentary debates, a prominent opposition campaign and the support of numerous experts and high profile figures, the number of areas increased in 2015. A government announcement is expected any day on the new areas for an extension of the cull.

The Wildlife Trusts believe culling is offering farmers false hope. The scientific evidence demonstrates that culling is likely to be ineffective in fighting the disease and, worse still, risks making the problem even worse. All the evidence shows that the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact; the control of bTB in cattle should be the main focus of everyone’s efforts to control this problem.

*Source on cattle vaccinations
Source: National Office of Animal Health. Cattle in the UK routinely receive vaccinations for the following diseases: Blackleg, tetanus, ‘husk’ (lungworm disease), rotavirus, infectious bovine rhinotracheictis (IBR), respiratory syncytial virus, pasteurellosis, enteritis, leptospirosis, mastitis, ringworm, BVD, PI3, coronavirus, salmonella, E Coli.

Public opinion polls on the badger cull

2011: Commissioned by the BBC News website from pollsters GfK NOP - reported here. Across the country, 63% said badgers should not be killed for cattle TB, with 31% in favour of culling and the remainder undecided.
2012: YouGov reported here.
31% support the cull, 40% oppose it and a lot of people - 29% - don't know.
YouGov also asked people what they though should be the main tool for dealing with bovine TB. Culling was backed by 12%, as was restricting cattle movements and reforming farm practices, and 15% didn't know. But the most popular choice by far was vaccination, which was backed by 60% of people in England. The poll was a professional one, run by YouGov, for the animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI).

 Boundary of South Herefordshire Area

Further details on The Royal Society of Wildlife Trust's position on Badgers and bovine TB and response to the badger cull

www.wildlifetrusts.org/badgers