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April 17, 2015

BVA Rejection of Free-Shooting in Badger Cull Welcomed

British Veterinary Association says free shooting neither humane nor effective; Humane Society International welcomes announcement, but disappointed by support for cage-trapping

Humane Society International/UK

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The British Veterinary Association announced today that it has withdrawn support for the shooting of free-running badgers in the government’s misguided badger cull policy. Humane Society International/UK welcomes the announcement. However, HSI/UK is deeply disappointed that the BVA continues to endorse cage trapping and shooting.

The BVA’s decision follows persistent lobbying by HSI/UK for the body to change its stance on the pilot badger culls on the basis that it is professionally compromising for a veterinary organisation to support a cull that causes so much unnecessary animal suffering.

The BVA has concluded: “In light of the results following the second year of culling, BVA believes that it has not been demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set for the pilots. Nor are we confident that the effectiveness and humaneness can be significantly further improved, despite Defra’s assurances after the first year of culling. We therefore do not support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy.”

In response to the BVA’s announcement, HSI/UK’s veterinary adviser, Professor Alastair MacMillan, said: “As a vet myself, I welcome the BVA’s withdrawal of support for the policy of shooting free running badgers at night as part of the government’s pilot badger culls. However, its ongoing support for cage trapping and shooting is regrettable. Why support the killing of thousands of healthy badgers when all the available evidence to date shows it will make no meaningful contribution to tackling TB in cattle? Even if the current culling policy were carried out to the letter, studies have shown that the best possible outcome would still only be a 16 per cent decrease in new cattle TB infections. That is neither cost effective, nor in my opinion ethical, as a great deal of suffering has been caused to little effect.”  

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The BVA made its announcement following close examination of DEFRA’s data from the second year of culling. It has concluded that shooting free running badgers is neither effective nor humane, echoing the conclusions of the Independent Expert Panel following the first year of culling.

The use of cage traps to first catch a badger before it is shot has been used throughout the two years of culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire. However, figures release by DEFRA show how costly and inefficient it is.

HSI/UK Executive Director, Claire Bass said: “The BVA’s decision today provides further confirmation that the badger cull to date has been cruel and ineffective. But cage trapping and shooting is not the answer. Not only will it not stop the spread of TB, it will cost a fortune in the process. Last year it took 12,957 traps to catch 302 badgers in the two cull areas, a large majority of which didn’t even have TB. So if the government switches to trap and shoot and sets similar cull targets this year, it’ll have to foot the bill for some 30,000 traps, and a small army to set and police them.”

In addition to cost, cage trapping also raises welfare concerns because badgers can potentially be left in cages for up to 16 hours before they are killed. This concern is heightened in the kind of extreme bad weather and flooding that was experienced during the previous culls, where animals may be left without shelter in heavy rain and bitterly cold temperatures.

HSI believes that instead of concentrating on badgers, the focus of a credible TB policy must be on stemming cattle-to-cattle infection by improving cattle TB testing, tightening restrictions on cattle movements, and prioritizing funding to accelerate bringing an effective cattle vaccine to market. This science-led, cattle focussed policy is in place in Wales, where cattle TB incidence is coming down year on year.

Notes to editors

During the 2014 cull in Gloucestershire, a total of 5,359 traps were set resulting in the killing of 108 animals by cage trapping and shooting (equating to 49.62 traps set per badger).
In Somerset, a total of 7,598 traps were set resulting in the killing of 194 by cage trapping and shooting (equating to 39.15 traps set per badger).

Media contact:

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

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