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April 3, 2014

UK Abandons Badger Cull Roll Out

Move welcomed by HSI, calls for culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset to be abandoned

Humane Society International/UK

  • Dirk Freder/istock

The following is a statement from Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of Humane Society International UK, on the government’s decision to abandon the planned roll out of badger culling to new areas of England this year but to continue the cull in in Somerset and Gloucestershire. The announcement comes on the same day as publication of the Independent Expert Panel report which concludes that the pilot culls failed the ‘effectiveness’ test, and as many as 18 percent of badgers killed in the pilot culls last year took more than five minutes to die, failing the Government’s own ‘humaneness’ test. Jones is a Gloucestershire resident who took part in numerous Wounded Badger Patrols during the culls last year. 

“Whilst the abandonment of the planned badger cull roll out this year is a welcome U-turn as well as a damning indictment on DEFRA’s failed culling policy, it is nonetheless utterly indefensible that the government is carrying on with its discredited cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to tackling bovine tuberculosis. Additionally, damning evidence from post mortems, Natural England observations and the Independent Expert Panel report that the pilot culls were inhumane and caused unacceptable badger suffering make it unacceptable for DEFRA to condemn hundreds more badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset to a senseless slaughter. Badger persecution also faces considerable political and public opposition. This decision will lead to further chaos, cruelty and community division in these areas for absolutely no benefit whatsoever.

“DEFRA is doing farmers no favours by continuing to push this futile badger slaughter. The government’s own figures show that we were already getting bovine TB under control before a single badger was shot last year, just as Professor John Bourne of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial science panel predicted we would. As we did in the 1950s and 60s, by increasing cattle testing intensity, improving farm biosecurity and controlling cattle movements, we have achieved a significant decrease in cattle TB incidence. In Wales, the numbers of cattle slaughtered through bovine TB has been halved over the past four years, without any badgers being killed. Progress is also being made in England. Culling badgers risks unravelling all that good work. Farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset are being led down a failed path and Owen Paterson is leading the way like the Pied Piper.”

Professor John Bourne chaired the Independent Scientific Group which oversaw the design, analysis and reporting of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Bourne wrote in the ISG’s final report published 2007: 

  • ‘…badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain’
  • ‘…implementation of cattle control measures outlined in this report are, in the absence of badger culling, likely to reverse the increasing trend in cattle disease incidence’
  • ‘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’

ENDS

Media contact:
Wendy Higgins, Communications Director: +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

Notes to editor

Government announcement from 3/4/14 can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-to-eradicate-bovine-tb-in-england-unveiled

Government bTB cattle incidence statistics can be found at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/incidence-of-tuberculosis-tb-in-cattle-in-great-britain

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