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July 19, 2011

HSI UK Condemns English Badger Cull Proposals

Humane Society International/UK

  • Plans for widespread slaughter of badgers have been widely criticised. Dirk Freder/istock

LONDON—Humane Society International/UK condemns today’s announcement by Minister for Agriculture, Caroline Spelman, who made the case for the slaughter of badgers by free-shooting in two large-scale “pilot studies” to be conducted next year in parts of England badly affected by bovine tuberculosis, before being rolled out.

The slaughter of badgers as a means of controlling bovine TB has been widely criticised by scientists and conservation experts including Sir David Attenborough [1] and Professor Lord Krebs [2].

HSI UK’s Director and veterinarian Mark Jones, has criticised the proposals as well as the Government’s refusal to publish the results of its public consultation.

Says Jones:

“While it is good to see the Government proposing to tighten up cattle testing and movement, and announcing significant investment in the development of vaccines to protect both badgers and cattle from this devastating disease, HSI UK is appalled by the Government’s misguided preference for bringing cruelty back to the countryside with an English badger slaughter.

“The slaughter of badgers as a means of controlling the spread of tuberculosis in cattle has been overwhelmingly declared ineffective by a host of eminent scientific experts. We do not need further Government consultations, pilot studies or trials to tell us that slaughtering badgers won’t help.

“The Government has suppressed the results of its own public consultation which took place last year, we fear in order to allow it to proceed with its plans. Tuberculosis is a devastating disease but it will not be alleviated long-term by the indiscriminate slaughter of one of Britain’s best-loved wild species. Humane Society International (UK) will make strong and robust arguments to the announced consultation, in order to try and dissuade the Secretary of State from her preferred course of action.”

There is substantial scientific evidence that badger culls will have little impact on Bovine tuberculosis. In 1997 Lord Krebs conducted a review of badgers and the disease, resulting in a trial cull (the Randomised Badger Culling Trial) which took place over several years at a cost to the taxpayer of at least £50 million. The results of the cull were published by the Independent Scientific Group in 2008, which concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain” [3]. Lord Krebs, now Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, has since criticised culling, stating “I do not think culling is an effective policy.” Most recently in July 2011 a study by the Medical Research Council said that localised badger culling can more than double the risk of tuberculosis infecting cattle [4].

In September 2010, DEFRA launched a public consultation on a badger cull, which closed in December 2010. Despite repeated calls from HSI UK and other animal protection groups to publish the results, the Government has so far refused [5] and today’s announcement has gone ahead without the views of the respondents to the consultation being made public.

ENDS

Humane Society International/UK and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at www.hsiuk.org

Notes to Editors:

1. Sir David Attenborough interview in Daily Telegraph, 14 July 2011

2. Lord Krebs speaking in the Daily Telegraph, 11 July 2011

3. The ISG Report

4. The MRC report

5. Government refusal to release results in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Badger Trust.

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