Campaigners protest against the Government’s plan to extend badger cull into Herefordshire.

Campaigners protest against the Government’s plan to extend badger cull into Herefordshire.

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Added by November 24, 2015

On Saturday the 21st November 2015 I joined hundreds of campaigners from all over England and Wales on the streets of Hereford to protest against the controversial badger cull and the Government’s proposals to extend it into Herefordshire in 2016.

The mood as I arrived at the Castle Green meeting point near Hereford town centre was friendly, upbeat and, dare I say it, jovial. I counted at least seven human size badgers and most of the gathering had black and white war paint smeared on their faces.

Members of the Wounded Badger Patrol

Members of the Wounded Badger Patrol

Many of those present were veterans of the campaign having attended several of the previous 31 protest marches organised by the Badger Trust. Some had also spent time patrolling the badger cull kill zones of Gloucestershire and Somerset searching for badger setts, looking for injured badgers and trying to disrupt the cull.

As the march passed through Hereford town centre, the message was simple. “Save our Badgers! Stop the Cull! Save our Badgers! Stop the Cull!”.

Despite bemused looks from some of the Saturday shoppers who encountered the march, Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive Officer for the Badger Trust, is optimistic that the tide is turning against the badger cull and the message is slowly getting through.

“This is the 31st march we have had around towns and cities in this country over the last two years”, said Dominic. “We have had thousands of people coming out from Leeds to London and from Brighton to Bristol. What we are trying to do here in Hereford is continue that campaign of public awareness. Herford is critical because it could be one of the areas where the badger cull is rolled out next year.”

The march in Hereford town centre

The march in Hereford town centre

Back in February 2015, however, Environment Minister Elizabeth Truss told the annual National Farmers Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham “We will not let up [with the badger cull], whatever complaints we get from protesters’ groups. We are in it for the long haul and we will not walk away.” This policy does not appear to have changed despite overwhelming opposition from the scientific community and a range of wildlife conservation organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, The Badger Trust, RSPB, The Mammal Society, The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Animal Aid, League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA.

Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive Officer for the Badger Trust

Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive Officer for the Badger Trust

Dominic remains undeterred “The Government has spent around 20 million pounds so far killing around 3,000 badgers”, he reported. “It’s the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. It’s not working. There is no scientific evidence to say it’s reducing bovine TB [and] it’s very cruel. Even the veterinary industry has come to that conclusion. What we are saying to the Government and the farming industry is that there are better ways of dealing with it [bovine TB]. Get the TB testing sorted out for cattle, improve biosecurity movement controls and let us get on and vaccinate badgers. If we get all of those things done it will be better for the tax payer, better for wildlife and it will help the farmers.”

Dominic is right when he says that the badger cull is not supported by the veterinary profession. On 12th August 2015 an Open Letter written by Veterinarian Iain McGill and signed by 26 other distinguished vets was sent to Natural England Chief Scientist Professor Tim Hill, the Natural England Science Advisory Committee and the Natural England Board. The letter stated that English Nature’s decision to licence England’s badger cull had no scientific basis, was unethical and inhumane.

Protesters at the start of the march

Protesters at the start of the march

One of the signatories to the letter, Mark Jones, an experienced Veterinarian and Programmes Manager (Wildlife) for the Born Free foundation, also attended the march. Mark told me in no uncertain terms that “TB in cattle can be effectively controlled through the implementation of sensible measures to regulate the farming industry. We don’t have to slaughter wildlife in order to control TB in cattle. My advice to David Cameron and Environment Minister Elizabeth Truss”, he added, “is to listen to the scientists, look at the evidence and work with the veterinary profession and the farming industry to put in place robust policies to get the disease under control so we can protect out wildlife and our cattle.”

What makes the situation in England even more frustrating for Dominic, Mark and the other protestors on the Hereford march, is that just over the Herefordshire border in Wales, a programme of cattle control, biosecurity measures and badger vaccination has resulted in 94% of the welsh herds now testing free from TB without a single badger being killed.

You can donate to the Badger Trust and help support their valuable work please click here    .

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