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June 19, 2014

Badger Cull Breaches International Wildlife Convention, Say Charities

HSI UK, Badger Trust, Care for the Wild

  • A complaint has been lodged. Stuart Matthews

LONDON—Potential negative impacts on protected wildlife caused by the badger cull are in breach of the Bern Convention, claim a group of British wildlife protection organisations.

The Badger Trust, Humane Society International UK and Care for the Wild have launched a challenge against the decision to cull badgers in England, on the basis that officials have failed to conduct sufficient risk assessments on the possible impacts of badger culling on the wider ecosystem.

In a complaint sent to the Secretariat of the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), to which the UK has been a signatory since 1982, the charities claim that the badger cull breaches Bern because:

  • It could have a negative impact on a huge range of other protected species such as ground-nesting and song birds and small mammals, caused by the removal of badgers and the subsequent knock on effects within the ecosystem, and
  • It is in any event unnecessary since bovine TB can be controlled in cattle without resorting to badger culls.

Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director for HSI/UK, said:
“Thus far the government has shown a blatant disregard for the supposedly protected status of badgers under UK law, or the near unanimous opposition to a badger cull by some of our most eminent scientists. So now we are taking our challenge to the Bern Convention, with yet more evidence to illustrate how badger culling is not only ineffective, inhumane and unnecessary, but also potentially very bad news for the wider ecosystem. The cull zones and surrounding areas are home to many protected endangered species of birds and mammals, and habitats such as heathlands, grasslands, meadows and forests. Removing or displacing large numbers of badgers from nature’s delicate balance could be catastrophic for some of these species and habitats, so we’re asking Bern to intervene and protect all of our wildlife from this disastrous cull.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of The Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:
“We hope that this is the beginning of the end of badger culling in the UK. The UK government has cut corners and turned a blind eye to the damage this policy will do both to the badgers themselves, and the rare birds and other animals which will be affected when badgers are culled.”

“The badger cull has been a shambles from the start, but it’s so unnecessary. Improved farming controls and tightening up on cattle movements have already led to big reductions in the disease – including a 50 percent reduction last year in Somerset. If the government and the farmers focussed on what’s working, and on improving the accuracy of the bTB test, which misses large number of infected cows, they’d see they don’t need to be worrying about badgers.”

Research over many years has revealed that badger removal can lead to significant changes in the density of other predators, including in some cases a doubling of the number of foxes. This in turn can threaten other protected species such as ground nesting birds, both through direct increases in predation, and the impacts on habitats through reductions in prey species such as rabbits. A 2011 report by the Food and Environment Research Agency [PDF] found that the impacts on many species and habitats was uncertain and would require careful consideration before any badger culling licenses should be issued.

Recent information released by Natural England under Freedom of Information requests shows that its own assessments conducted as the badger cull licensing authority were limited to just one site in Somerset. This is in stark contrast to events in Wales where detailed appraisal was undertaken by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2009 recommending the need for further study and monitoring. Badger culling as a policy has been abandoned in Wales, but the rate of bTB in cattle has fallen drastically following the introduction of improved cattle testing, movement restrictions and farm biosecurity measures.


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

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