The UK government pledged to move away from culling badgers to vaccinating them against TB. It is believed that badgers transmit tuberculosis to cattle. Controversially they are shot in their many tens of thousands in the UK and animal advocates don’t like it. I think the big problem here is that it is seen to not work and therefore why kill badgers and cause unecessary pain?
The badger cull has been extended to 11 new areas of England. It is already present in 33 places. Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister’s fiancee, has strongly advocated against culling badgers and temporarily succeeded in making some headway in that regard but this appears to be a backward step and it must upset her.
Natural England has announced plans to trial a TB vaccination in livestock. The intention is to use it within five years. Animal advocates had hoped that this would spell the end of culling but the environment secretary, George Eustice, has said that the country must go on culling badgers until the vaccine is in operation.
He admits there bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges for the country. Apparently it costs taxpayers over £100 million annually because 30,000 cattle are killed each year over bovine TB.
The government is accelerating the vaccination development and improving testing to try and eradicate the disease. The Prime Minister has intervened in the past to prevent an extension of the cull. His intervention was exposed in court documents relating to a High Court challenge by the National Farmers’ Union.
The farming industry has pushed back against Carrie Symonds’s influence over the Prime Minister and achieved this extension to badger culling. It is understood that the vast majority of badgers killed in these culls are free of tuberculosis and so their deaths have no impact whatsoever on the spread of the disease.
The chief executive of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Jo Smith, said that she was appalled that culling would be allowed in her county i.e. Derbyshire for the first time. She regards it as a staggering government U-turn which will result in thousands of healthy badgers being shot dead. She argues that scientific advice is being ignored.
She said that the government promised to move away from lethal control and that badger culling is “an outdated policy that seeks to eradicate protected wildlife rather than addressing the real problem, which is the main cause of bovine tuberculosis: cattle-to-cattle infection”.
The League against Cruel Sports is strongly against badger culling because they say that it is cruel, ineffective and inhumane. They refer to a report dated 2014 by an Independent Expert Panel appointed by Defra to assess the effectiveness of badger culling.
- It concluded that the culls do not come close to reducing badger populations by 70 percent which is the minimum it has to be reduced by to to be effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle.
- The people who carry out the culling could not confirm that coverage of the land was at 70 percent which is also an essential minimum criteria for the culling to be effective.
- Shooting badgers is inhumane and it was found that 18 percent of badgers who had been shot were still alive after five minutes and therefore suffering acute pain.
The badger is a protected species in the UK. Comment: clearly the farmers union is putting heavy pressure on the government. It appears, from my standpoint, that farmers are unconcerned about the pain and suffering caused the badges. They are convinced that badgers transmit bovine TB to their cattle although this appears to be in doubt. Certainly, the effectiveness of culling badgers on such a large scale appears not to have a significant beneficial effect.
My thanks to The Times and the League.