There is something deeply distasteful about a government that manipulates science and imposes secrecy to drive its own agenda. The 5th March “Next Steps” policy guidance on badger culling in England uses selective data in a shocking way to falsely claim that badger culling since 2013 has been shown to be working. It rows back fully and in ambiguous language on the High Court commitment from government earlier this year to ‘tilt’ bTB control away from lethal intervention. And upon previous claims to be able to ‘adapt and learn’, which it cannot, because of the lazy methods it employs. This is admitted by expert advisors. Yet the government continues to make outrageous claims of success from its embarrassing bean-counting exercises.
Defra has recently undertaken a consultation on the rules for killing badgers near badger vaccination sites and ignored the outcry against proposals that are devious and unfair. Serving only a drive to reduce badger populations concerned by up to 95% or more. It is offering less than nothing to those who spend their lives trying to help protect badgers from cattle TB by vaccinating them. Consultees to the online portal were made to choose from a limited range of unacceptable options. Badger vaccination often takes place in or near nature reserves and private land where the government pays gunmen to tempt them out to be shot. This is a brutal betrayal of the voluntary sector and wildlife charities, an affront to those who work hard in the countryside for badgers, and it constrains and threatens the current and future prospects of the promised application of non-lethal intervention. Already during the English culls, one vaccination area in Somerset has been all but culled completely out, despite legal steps to force Natural England to limit the killings.
How long can the pointless, counter-productive killing go on? According to the new policy, this may continue forever, as appears to be the case in the Republic of Ireland where culling has continued for decades with no demonstrable benefit. Talk of using vaccination seems hollow too. Defra’s utter failure to stop the importation and exportation of bovine TB in trade and the spread of the disease eastwards shames any claims of success. It is an abject, utter failure and they know it. The capacity of the 50% accurate testing system to do anything but keep infected areas stable or hovering at unacceptable levels is obvious. Measures that should have been in place years ago are only now being gradually applied. How long before the government stops doing exactly what vested interests demand and ends the flagrant abuse of public funds on scapegoating badgers? It has to stop.
A new legal challenge attacks not only the decision to reject specific Godfray report (2018) recommendations, but also Defra’s decisions based upon inadequate and out-of-date modelled data that cannot be checked due to irrational secrecy. A fresh legal claim against aspects of the 5th March 2020 policy guidance on badger culling was lodged this summer by Tom Langton, with support from The Badger Trust and a successful crowd fund. This was against the Secretary of State for EFRA and with Natural England (NE) as an Interested Party. A renewal hearing to this claim will take place in mid-October because (as with the Wild Justice claim) the court initially refused the application. This follows a refusal of the request that Defra should follow key Godfray Review report recommendations. It asked for NE not to issue new Supplementary Badger Culling (SBC) licences in 2020 and to stop badger culling after four-year culls for a two-year period to enable more badger vaccination. Other legal challenges are underway too concerning culling in the Low Risk Area based upon incompetent epidemiology assessment, as exposed recently in the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust report. This matter also relates to the Edge area and consultation over what Defra means in its policy when it seems to refer to reactive culling in the future, in the HRA and beyond. Consultation on that was expected in June but has been delayed.
The Badger Crowd was formed in 2017. It is a voice for the public to challenge incorrect process and procedures surrounding the badger cull. The badger cull is one of the worst wildlife abuses of modern times and we will continue to challenge the wrong decisions surrounding it. We will continue to seek justice in the best interests of badgers, wildlife, farming and the tax-paying public. Thank you again for all your hard work and donations in support. Together we are The Badger Crowd. Standing up for Badgers.