News headlines on March 05th 2020 announced “Badger cull to be replaced by vaccines in bovine TB fight”. The government had finally published the long-awaited response to the Godfray Review, the 2018 review of Bovine TB policy. Many people on social media celebrated, and proclaimed that the government had at last seen sense and was listening to the science. But the devil is, as ever, in the detail. Careful reading of the government response makes it clear that its approach with respect to badgers remains largely unchanged – it is stick-to-plan A:
- Defra still falsely claims badger culling is working by using selective data and obscure modelling
- Natural England will sanction intensive culling into around 15 new areas in the HRA and Edge area in 2020 and 2021, with existing cull areas killing a further 70,000 or so more badgers over the next few years. Up to a quarter of a million badgers could be killed needlessly by 2026 using public money.
- The plan is to continue to Supplementary Cull badgers until 2028
- There will be a few small-scale badger vaccination schemes and a comparison of culling vs. vaccination that will be flawed science with no acceptable outcome
- 50 badgers killed for every one vaccinated?
- Now looking at the use of thick wire snares for vaccination; normalising snares with a view to use in culling?
- The lack of any attempt at gathering significant data on badgers makes sure that nothing will be learned by the continuing cull. And it seems the penny has not yet dropped in regard to badger vaccination. Since the claims regarding the impact of badger culling are blatantly false, there is no reason to suppose that vaccination will help either. The truth is that badgers have been erroneously identified as a substantial reservoir of infection, so no amount of interference with them will produce benefits for cattle.
- Defra will start to look harder at cattle interventions – but there is no complete plan or timetable for this.
In short, there is little change to the existing bTb policy, and importantly, there is no clear or real commitment to end badger culling in the medium term. Accelerated butchery in the short term. The blaming of badgers for bTB spread is a distraction resting on weak field trial data – a completely unsafe platform for policy; only cattle measures can remove bTB from cattle herds.
The blaming of badgers for bTB spread is a significant part of the issue. Welfare and conservation charities have spent considerable effort challenging the policy and legal challenge has helped stop culling in Wales. But the emergency continues to escalate, with up to 115,000 mostly healthy English badgers shot under Natural England licences since 2013. Sustained legal effort is needed to help stop the useless, often cruel and damaging badger cull, alongside policy reform
The Badger Crowd was formed in 2017. It is a voice for the public to challenge bad process and procedures surrounding the badger cull. The Badger Crowd are currently waiting to hear if permission will be granted to challenge the 2019 ruling on Supplementary Culling in the Supreme Court. We will continue to challenge bad process and procedures surrounding the badger cull. We will continue to seek justice for badgers, wildlife, farming and the tax-paying public.
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