Since last year’s election it’s been clear that this Government, if it thought it could get away with it, was going to cave into the demands of dairy farmers and introduce badger culling to prevent the spread of bovine TB. This is despite the fact there’s no scientific evidence that culls would be effective. In fact scientists have said that culling could make the problem worse by encouraging other badgers to move into the area vacated by the culled badgers.

If you agree, please sign up to the League Against Cruel Sport’s petition – www.league.org.uk/badgerpetition

More badgers moving around = more disease. And experts also say it’s the growth in cattle movements – where industrial-scale dairy farms now send cattle to all four quarters of the country for sale, rather than the traditional farming model of cows being sold at the local market – which is widely blamed for the increase in bovine TB, not the badgers. But of course the agribusinesses don’t want any curbs on this market in cows.

The Government, perhaps unsure of public opinion, was wavering over whether or not to allow culling. At a recent Environment Food and Rural Affairs questions in Parliament I described the Government policy on badger culling as ‘a complete shambles’, which it was. Now it appears that the Government has finally made its mind up – although it wasn’t planning on telling you until after the local elections. It’s going to allow what the Minister for Farming (himself a dairy farmer) describes as “free shooting” and the Guardian describes as “a Big Society badger cull” whereby anyone with a firearms licence will be allowed to go out and shoot badgers.

As the League Against Cruel Sports say, this will create a new bloodsport. Fox-hunting has been banned – although the vast majority of Tories would love to bring it back, if they could only win a vote in Parliament – but it will be open season on badgers. Anyone with a firearms licence will be able to roam the countryside looking for badgers to kill.

Badgers are at the moment a protected species, and it’s illegal to kill them. If the Government gets its way, they will lose this status and will be fair game for anyone with a firearms licence. Those wanting to shoot badgers will also have to apply for a specific licence under the Badger Protection Act, but the police in the National Wildlife Crime Unit has expressed sceptism about whether this will be much use in stopping people hunting badgers for sport: ” “There is a very real danger of illegal badger persecution being carried out under the pretext of culling activity.”

Those of us who are opposed to culling, both on scientific and humane grounds, believe that vaccination not extermination is the way to deal with bovine TB.

If we can get enough signatures we can stop the bloodshed before it starts.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve seen dozens of dead badgers on my travels this last week or two. There’s some beautiful protected sets in the area I live in urban Sheffield. To say there is no evidence of them spreading Bovine TB rurally though, is wide of the mark. If the ‘culling’ as such, was to be done sensibly and within farming districts, it would probably be no less humane and potentially sensible for the future of farmstocks, than the 40/50 poor little buggers I’ve seen with tyre-tracks through their beautiful little backs this last couple of weeks.

  2. No, didn’t actually say there’s no evidence badgers spread TB – I said there’s no convincing scientific evidence that culling is the way to control it. For a cull to work it would have to be carried over a huge area, I think about 250 km, with the consent of all landowners within that space – otherwise you just get perturbation, ie new badgers moving into vacated territory. In South Gloucestershire they’re starting a trial vaccination programme, in the Stroud area, which I hope to visit soon. It costs more than random free shooting, but it’s far more effective. And there’s also the issue of cattle to cattle transmission, which farmers seem reluctant to address.

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