In Brief

Gas badgers, says Princess Anne, as cull abandoned

Princess Anne advocates a return to a controversial 1970 practice that was outlawed in 1982

PRINCESS Anne has said that gassing badgers is the most humane way to control their numbers and prevent the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

In a "frank and forthright" interview with BBC's Countryfile, the Princess Royal suggested reviving a practice that was outlawed in 1982.

"If we want to control badgers, the most humane way of doing it is to gas them," she said in an interview that will be broadcast on Sunday.

The comments came a day after the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, announced his intention to abandon plans to extend badger culls across England. The policy was discarded after an independent report found that a pilot shooting programme had done little to contain the spread of bovine TB and was "inhumane".

Princess Anne's advice was dismissed by Professor Rosie Woodroffe, from the Zoological Society of London who told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that gassing badgers was a throwback to a previously unsuccessful 1970s governmental campaign.

She said: "If you go back to reports at the time they are full of frustration about how it just wasn't very effective.

"Setts would be gassed and then opened up again by the badgers... the problem seemed to be that badger setts are built to hold warm air in and keep cold draughts out so it's very difficult to achieve lethal concentrations of gas and some lethal concentrations of gas are inhumane. That's why ministers banned gassing in 1982," Woodroffe said.

Instead, she recommended a mass vaccination programme for badgers, to test whether the animals could be protected from TB rather than culled: "It is cheaper than culling because it doesn't require any policing," Woodroffe said, "and people will come forward offering to help to do it.

"We don't know how effective it could be in controlling cattle TB [but] it is very promising. What we need are trials of vaccination instead." 

 

Gloucestershire badger cull abandoned as targets not met

29 Nov 2013

ANIMAL activists have branded the badger cull in Gloucestershire a "fiasco" after it was called off three weeks early because too few animals have been killed to meet the terms of the licence.

The cull was due to end on 18 December after marksmen were given an eight-week extension to the initial six-week licence granted by Natural England. The extension was granted when it was revealed that only 708 animals had been killed in Gloucestershire – 942 fewer than the target of 1,650, the BBC reports.

Under the terms of the licence, marksmen were obliged to remove 70 per cent of the animals in the designated cull area - a ratio deemed essential to stop badgers passing TB to cattle. But only 30 per cent were killed during the life of the original six-week licence, forcing the government to more than double the length of the controversial project.

Despite the extension it became clear the targets specified by the licence were not going to be met by the 18 December deadline. As a result, Natural England has revoked the licence and the cull will end at noon tomorrow.

The exact number of badgers killed in the county is not known.

Badger killing legally stops at noon on Saturday. Nobody knows how many will still be illegally murdered, increasing the TB risk to cattle.

— Dr. Brian May (@DrBrianMay) November 29, 2013

The Guardian says the collapse of the culling trial "represents a humiliation for the government's policy as it means every target set has now been missed". A trial cull in Somerset also failed to kill 70 per cent of the badgers in the area, the paper says.

Farmers Weekly conceded that anti-cull campaigners will "seize on the abandonment of the cull as yet further evidence that the policy in its current format of free shooting and cage trapping and shooting is unworkable".

Mark Jones from Humane Society International (HSI) UK told the BBC he was "relieved" that common sense had been applied and "the government's badger cull fiasco will finally be over for the time being". He added: "In the face of what has been the dismal failure of this policy, we commend Natural England for making the sensible decision to revoke the cull licence."

Extended badger cull may not hit 70% target 29/10/13 

MARKSMEN taking part in the Gloucestershire badger cull may not reach their target of killing 70 per cent of the animals despite the extension of the culling period by eight weeks, a document seen by BBC suggests.

The document, which was compiled by Natural England, says the 70 per cent target may not be achieved even with an eight-week extension into December. The percentage of badgers killed could be as low as 53 per cent, a figure that would force additional culling measures next year, BBC says.

The Natural England document also reveals that if culling badgers proves "too difficult in the winter months", Natural England will revoke the licence early. It is likely to give ammunition to opponents of the cull who believe it is a "huge failure" and want it stopped immediately.

The document says: "It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling."

BBC says Natural England was unable to comment on the document because it may be "subject to legal processes".

The latest revelations about the controversial cull follow calls by a wildlife expert to halt the killing immediately because extending it would make the outcome "even less predictable and even more unpromising". Professor David MacDonald's comments carry extra weight because he is the lead scientist on the board of Natural England, the organisation charged with assessing whether the cull should be extended, The Guardian reports.

Natural England extended the night-time killing of badgers after the company carrying out the cull asked for more time because its marksmen had fallen well short of their legal kill target.

The intervention of Professor MacDonald, the chair of Natural England's science advisory committee, is a "heavy blow" for the National Farmers' Union who argue that the cull is vital to halt the spread of bovine TB, the Guardian says. It is also a significant setback for the evironment secretary Owen Paterson, who has championed the operation.

Macdonald, a professor at Oxford University, said: "My personal opinion as a biologist [is] not to continue the cull. One could not have significant comfort that the original proposals would deliver gains to farmers. Extending the cull would make the outcome even less predictable and even more unpromising."

The call to extend the cull came after marksmen failed to reach their target of killing 70 per cent of badgers in the two trial areas.  In west Somerset only 850 badgers were killed compared with a target of 2,081, the BBC reports.

However, sources from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs say that the badger population may be much smaller than initially thought and have revised the target down to 1,450.

A preliminary report released at the end of the trial will confirm how many animals have been killed and whether their deaths were humane. It will not rule on whether or not the cull has proved effective in controlling the spread of bovine TB.

Activist arrested as badger cull begins in two counties 27/08/2013

BATTLE lines have been drawn in Gloucestershire and Somerset as marksmen began shooting badgers as part of a controversial six-week cull designed to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has confirmed culling has started in both counties. About 5,000 badgers are due to be killed at the two pilot sites.The NFU believes the culling of the animals is an essential step towards stemming "the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers". But the controlled killing of the animals has infuriated wildlife campaigners who have begun protesting against the "inhumane" operation at the two cull sites.

An organisation called Stop The Cull said that more than 500 people held protests and vigils at both sites last night.

One of the activists, Jay Tiernan, the leader of Stop the Cull, was arrested by Gloucestershire Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), ITV News reports. He said he had scaled a barbed wire fence to enter the site because he was trying to gather photographic evidence after hearing reports that 200 "rusty cages" and "industrial-sized fridges" were being prepared to hold dead badgers.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson told Sky News the badgers would be killed by trained marksmen "under very carefully controlled circumstances"."It is something I think we all approach with regret but for the last 15 years we have been the only country with a significant problem of bovine tuberculosis in cattle and bovine tuberculosis in wildlife that has only tried to address the problem in cattle," he said.

Labour has condemned the two pilot schemes and suggested they may promote the spread of TB further as badgers flee the marksmen.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: "The Government's divisive badger cull will cost more than it saves and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by shooting. We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements better and a vaccine to tackle TB in cattle. Ministers should listen to the scientists and drop this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife."

But Paterson said an effective vaccine was "ten years away" and culling had proved the only effective measure against bovine TB in other countries affected by the disease.

Bodger and Badger back to fight badger cull - video

22/08/2013

ANDY CUNNINGHAM, the creator and co-star of the 1990s children’s television show Bodger and Badger, has produced a one-off episode for YouTube in which his furry friend becomes unknowingly involved in the current government’s controversial badger cull.

Cunningham told the Brighton Argus: "For a long time Badger and I didn’t think the cull would really happen. The idea of people roaming around at night shooting at and very likely wounding badgers, just seemed too barbaric to be true.

"But when we heard this cull was really going to go ahead, Badger and I thought we ought to do something, because the case for culling just doesn’t add up."

A trial cull of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire is set to begin next week, despite mounting opposition from animal rights activists. The voverbnment believes it is the best way to bovine TB which is passed on by badgers.

Will badger cull damage Cameron's reputation?

 12/08/2013

OPPONENTS of the impending badger cull have warned David Cameron it will lose him votes across Middle England.

Some 5,000 badgers are due to be killed in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset in two pilot culls, believed to begin this month.

The government's culling policy has divided the nation. One side claims it is the only way to reduce bovine tuberculosis spreading from badgers to cattle. The other describes the cull as inhumane and based on flawed arguments.

The Prime Minister has said he has the "political courage" to deliver the cull – but Dominic Dyer, a policy adviser at Care for the Wild International, today warned that this resolve threatens lasting damage to the reputation of the government.

More than 95 per cent of the badgers to be killed will not be independently monitored, said Dyer, and "might well die long painful deaths as a result". Writing on This is Cornwall, Dyer said not only is this "unjustifiably cruel" but actually increases the risk of badgers moving between setts and spreading the disease.

"Despite the fighting talk from David Cameron on the need to show courage to see the badger cull through, many in his cabinet have serious misgivings about the policy and Lynton Crosby, his election strategist, has no doubt been ringing alarm bells that Twitter and YouTube images of thousands of dead and injured badgers this summer will not be a vote winner in Middle England," said Dyer.

Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today last Thursday that the culls "are going to go ahead and it's important that they go ahead".

He warned that "another billion pounds" could be spent dealing with the consequences of bovine tuberculosis if nothing is done. He added that the government had the political courage to see the policy through because "quite simply it's the right thing to do".

But the opposition is unlikely to back down. The RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports are among the charities opposing the cull, while high-profile figures such as Queen guitarist Brian May and actress Dame Judi Dench have also voiced their concern.May joined hundreds of cull opponents to march through central London in June, before handing in a 230,000-strong petition against the cull to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This week May has been busy retweeting messages from other opponents. "Decision to pursue a cull of badgers is triumph of political expediency over scientific evidence," wrote one, while another said: "CAMERON – 'it takes courage to kill badgers'... It takes more courage to admit when you are wrong!"

Another tweeter's simple message suggested the Prime Minister might be wise to listen to Dyer's warning. "David Cameron, re badger cull. That's my rock solid vote gone."

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