A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the badger cull.

A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the badger cull.

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Added by March 19, 2015

In an attempt to secure the votes of the farming community, Environment Minister Liz Truss has pledged that badger culls will continue under a new Conservative led government after the May general election and that culling will form an integral part of a 25 year strategy to stem TB in cattle in England.

The Minister told the annual National Farmers Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham on 25 February 2015 “We will not let up, whatever complaints we get from protesters’ groups. We are in it for the long haul and we will not walk away.”

The Department of Rural Affairs (Defra) set cull targets at 70% of the badger population in order to achieve  a maximum 16% decrease in TB incidents in cattle in infected areas.

However, the commitment to continue with the controversial cull in 2015 is despite the Government admitting that the trial culls in 2013 and 2014 in Gloucestershire and Somerset failed to meet their own targets due to the low number of badgers killed and the badger cull policy being described by the Chief Scientific Advisor of Natural England as “an epic failure.”

The decision to continue with the badger cull also goes against scientific opinion which is overwhelmingly against the cull. Back in 2012 more than 30 eminent scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases wrote an open letter to the Observer  urging the government to reconsider its strategy.  In the letter they described how the   “the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it.” and said “Even if such increases [in bovine TB] do not materialise, the government predicts only limited benefits, insufficient to offset the costs for either farmers or taxpayers.”

Claire Bass, Executive Director for the Humane Society International/UK, recently commented that the government was “placing politics above science and ethics”. She also said “The cull fails animal welfare by subjecting supposedly protected animals to inhumane shooting; it fails farmers by promising a solution to TB that scientists agree cannot be delivered by killing badgers; and it fails the public by wasting valuable funds that could be far better deployed on nationwide badger vaccination, improved farm biosecurity and stricter cattle movement measures.”

The cull has also received opposition from a wide range of wildlife conservation organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, The Badger Trust, RSPB, The Mammals Society, The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Animal Aid, League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA. These organisations have accused the cull of being “ineffective” and “inhumane” and have put forward an alternative  strategy to culling which includes vaccinating badgers, improved testing of cattle for bovine TB, greater control of cattle movement and improving farm biosecurity .

Recent research published in March 2015 has shown that frequent testing of cattle can eradicate the disease without culling badgers but culling alone is ineffective. Professor Matthew Evans, from Queen Mary University of London, said “Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”

As if the emphatic opposition to the cull from scientists and wildlife experts was not enough, over 300,000 members of the general public signed a government e-petition which closed in September 2013 and numerous demonstrations against the cull have been organised all over England.

The situation In Wales could not be more different. Farmers and the Government have implemented a comprehensive bovine TB eradication plan which has concentrated on annual testing of cattle, strict bio-security measures and movement control. The statistics speak for themselves. According to Defra new incidents of bovine TB in Wales is down by almost a fifth and at their lowest level for six years without a single badger being shot.

It is clear that the Conservative Party is not paying attention to the success in Wales or listening to scientific or public opinion on this subject and,  if re-elected in May, is determined plough on with the badger cull in 2015 no matter how flawed the policy.

In contrast both Labour and the Green Party oppose the badger cull.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, recently proposed a motion in Parliament that called for the cull to be abandoned and has been one of the most passionate speakers against the cull.

Shadow Environment Minister Maria Eagle told the Labour Party Conference in September 2014 that Labour would scrap the current Government’s badger cull policy if they win next May’s General Election.

 

The short film below was produced by the Humane Society International and first published in September 2012. It is an excellent summary of the arguments against the badger culling.

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