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May 31, 2013

Myth-Busting Badger Cull Claims

Humane Society International/UK

  • How will DEFRA measure "humaneness"? Stuart Matthews

by Mark Jones

Many of the claims made to justify the misguided and potentially devastating badger culls, which could begin from 1 June, are not only unscientific but also dangerously inaccurate.

With the lives of so many thousands of badgers at stake, it is unacceptable for the public and farmers to be hoodwinked into believing that a cull will be effective in tackling bovine TB.

Team Badger's "Backing Badgers: Why the Cull will Fail" [PDF], is a myth-busting report, aimed at exposing and countering the inaccuracies and misconceptions being used to promote the cull.

Despite overwhelming opposition, the government confirmed last week that it still intends to go ahead with two pilot culls of badgers, in Gloucestershire and Somerset, this summer.

Alarmingly, Environment Minister Owen Paterson also indicated that if the culls are deemed successful, the department will definitely extend them: “We will roll out 10 new cull zones next year, and 10 more in each of the three years after that.” A full roll-out of the cull, to 40 areas, could result in the killing of as many as 130,000 badgers across England over the next few years.

The myths busted in the report include:

  • MYTH: Control of wildlife is the only way of getting rid of the bovine TB in cattle.
    FACT: Other countries have dealt with the problem by controlling cattle movements.

  • MYTH: Bovine TB has spread because of better legal protection for the badger.
    FACT: There are many cases of bovine tb in cows where there are no badgers.

  • MYTH: Badgers infected with bovine TB suffer, so culling them would improve their welfare.
    FACT: Few badgers have the disease (under 15 per cent in one study) and there is no evidence it impacts on the badger population.

  • MYTH: Culls in Ireland, the U.S. and New Zealand have proved this method could work in England.
    FACT: There are many differences between these countries. In Northern Ireland, bovine tb is decreasing without a cull.

  • MYTH: Many scientists support the cull.
    FACT: The government’s own scientific group said culling will make no meaningful difference and many reputable scientists agree it could make things worse.

Widespread opposition

This cull is wrong: scientifically, ethically and morally. It is opposed by top scientists, wildlife experts, animal welfare organisations and many parliamentarians, and more than 230,000 people have signed Brian May's Stop the Cull e-petition.

If these culls go ahead, a significant number of badgers are in danger of being maimed but not killed, resulting in unnecessary—and in some cases extreme—suffering.

As Professor John Bourne, Chair of the Independent Scientific Group which oversaw the 10-year, £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial, said: "...badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better".

“It is unfortunate that agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger population control".

Learn more about our badger campaign.

Mark Jones is executive director of Humane Society International/UK.

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