The Ends Report has put out a further piece by James Fairs here, on Natural England’s licensing of the badger cull and the risk that ‘carnivore release effects’ from removing badgers could have a clear-cut or subtle, yet profound damaging impact on our countryside. Last year during a Judicial Review hearing into whether adequate assessments had been done into the ecological impacts of badger culling, Natural England made repeated assurances to a High Court Judge that their ‘routine monitoring’ would detect any effects of badger culling on important protected ecosystems, and that they would respond to any changes identified. There remains no clarity surrounding what is being monitored, nor how the integrity of any monitoring can be guaranteed.
Culling has been underway for six years in the pilot cull areas and data released by the Government last summer indicated that in fact 47% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest have not been examined by NE in accordance with their own monitoring protocols within the last six years. This is the reality of the ‘routine monitoring’ referred to. A report commissioned by Natural England last year which compares coarse datasets of breeding bird records collected by volunteers continues to be suppressed.
This last ditch scrabble to cover the legal loopholes while keeping an awkward public funded report secret is surely a stark humiliation for our statutory agency.
We despair at the weak and woolly response of Natural England in merely trying to find fox control data, rather than implement full and proper monitoring of at-risk rural ecosystems in their entirety. This is what is essential to ensure the protection of our best wildlife sites, given such a drastic and large-scale intervention as badger culling. We call on the government to halt all badger culling immediately and to launch an inquiry into the oversights.
Full text is available on our ‘Press Cuttings’ page.