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September 9, 2014

Inhumane Badger Cull Starts Again

Humane Society International/UK

  • FLPA/Alamy

The government’s badger cull has started once again in Gloucestershire and Somerset despite overwhelming scientific and expert evidence that last year’s pilot culls were both inhumane and ineffective. Humane Society International/UK reacted strongly to the news.

Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director for HSI/UK, said: “I am appalled and saddened that this cruel and pointless waste of badgers’ lives is taking place once more in England. Neither DEFRA nor Natural England appear to have learned anything from last year’s events: independent scientific advice that killing badgers is a waste of time has been eschewed, independent oversight of the culls abandoned, kill targets have been set without an accurate idea of actual badger numbers, and farmers continue to be misled into thinking that killing these animals will help solve bovine TB when all the evidence points to the contrary. While Wales continues to get a grip on this disease without harming a single badger, here in England Ministers are set on appeasing those who would rather shoot innocent animals than focus on cattle-based measures that worked back in the 1950s and 1960s, and are working so well in Wales today.”

Culling contractors in Somerset and Gloucestershire will be permitted to indiscriminately target and kill between 931 and 1,876 badgers. Shooters will once again be allowed to trap badgers for up to 16 hours before killing them, or target ‘free running’ badgers at night. Last autumn more than 1,800 badgers were slaughtered, up to nearly a quarter of whom may have died inhumanely according to DEFRA’s own Independent Expert Panel. This year’s culls will not be overseen or audited by the Independent Expert Panel, and it is very disappointing that DEFRA has chosen to ignore the Panel’s recommendations in this regard.

Earlier this month, DEFRA launched its Badger Edge Vaccination Funding Scheme. Whilst welcoming government support for badger vaccination in principle, HSI UK believes that the limited and inadequate scheme was launched in part to cynically distract public attention away from the badger slaughter. Instead of supporting badger vaccination in high-risk bovine TB areas where it will likely have greatest impact, as is being done in Wales where nearly 3,000 badgers were vaccinated in the Intensive Action Area over the first two years of the programme, the BEVF scheme is restricted to counties bordering the high risk areas in England where the badger cull was never intended to take place. As such it fails to offer farmers a genuinely effective and science-led solution, and will have limited impact. HSI UK believes that any public finances and resources allocated to badger vaccination programmes should be directed to where the impact will likely be greatest, and that is where the disease is most prevalent.

HSI/UK - alongside the vast majority of scientists, wildlife groups and ethologists - remains as committed as ever to opposing the inhumane, unscientific and ineffective mass slaughter of badgers.
 
Media contact:

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

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