It's sad to see badgers being targeted again. This is following on from Wildlife Trusts and Forestry Commissions persecuting wildlife, livestock farmers doing the same, and an upturn in prejudice and discrimination from speciesists. Well, this is the latest:
On 28th March the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, set out her plans for badger culling in Wales at a Bovine TB Symposium in London. Here is the BBC report of an interview she gave them and comments from a scientific expert that are critical of her plans. In the interview the Chief Veterinary Officer admits the proposed culling might actually increase TB.
Wales has had real success in reducing bovine TB over the past 8 years through increasing cattle measures and biosecurity without culling badgers. It has achieved a 47% reduction and now has the lowest number of new incidents for a decade with 95% of herds TB free. It makes no sense to jeopardise this success through the introduction of reactive culling of badgers which the science does not support and which has previously been shown to increase TB levels. Welsh Labour had committed to being science-led regarding bovine TB in their 2016 manifesto.
"We are concerned that WG is using badger culling as a ‘carrot’ to ensure that farmers will implement the enhanced cattle measures in the Refreshed Policy. This is dangerous as, apart from the inherent risks involved in culling, it continues to mislead farmers into believing that badgers are a significant vector. This directly encourages them to focus on badgers at the expense of demonstrably successful cattle measures and potential environmental contamination from cattle. It risks wasting precious resources at a time of great economic uncertainty. Culling badgers in Wales will perpetuate the myth of badger involvement forever. Once we start culling we have no way of telling if future success is due to cattle controls or badger culling. Rather than introducing another variable we should be building on a policy that is already showing such striking success."What people can do now ... We have a few weeks in which to raise concerns about and oppose the plans to cull badgers before the Cabinet Secretary responsible announces her decision sometime in early May. People in Wales should email Lesley Griffiths and their regional or constituency AMs if they are Labour AMs, to express their opposition.
(Badger Trust Cymru statement).
- Lesley Griffiths AM is the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs and can be emailed on Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales
- Other Assembly Members' contact emails can be found here
Badger Trust Cymru Position Statement
We welcome the 47% reduction in bTB as a result of the government’s programme since 2008. This has been achieved through improved cattle controls and we appreciate the co-operation of farmers in achieving this. There has been a badger vaccination programme in the IAA since 2012 though no causal effect can yet be attributed to this. The Welsh programme has shown significant success, in contrast to England where extensive badger culling has taken place over the last 4 years but where the implementation of effective cattle controls has lagged behind Wales.
We regret however that in spite of such a successful and continuing reduction, the Welsh Government is yet again considering badger culling. This is despite Christianne Glossop’s own admission that evidence from the RBCT trials indicates that the proposed TVR policy risks increasing the spread of bTB. Professor Rosie Woodroffe described TVR/reactive culling as a “crazy idea” in her evidence to the Environmental Committee hearing in November.
Further, we do not believe that WG has consulted openly or transparently on the proposed measures involving badgers in the Refreshed Policy. Badger culling was not specifically consulted on in the Consultation and there has therefore been no opportunity for all interested parties to properly respond. BTC further feel that they were seriously misled on the Refreshed Policy in their meetings with WG and that their ‘support’ for the culling of groups of badgers was falsely claimed in the minutes.
BTC now withdraw all support for any culling of badgers on whatever scale. We align ourselves with the position set out in the Badger Trust’s response to the Welsh consultation:
“Until such time as more conclusive evidence is obtained as to what extent badgers are actually responsible for re-infecting cattle within the context of all other potential environmental risks, then the Trust cannot condone any deliberate policy of lethal intervention involving badgers…. Until there is clear epidemiological proof of exactly how and to what extent badgers are able to re-infect cattle then any intervention simply risks diverting attention and valuable resources away from mitigation strategies that are known to work.
The only real problem posed by badgers is one of distraction. There is clearly a false perception amongst many in the farming community and related lobbies that badgers are a ‘major source’ of bTB infections in cattle, and this has led to some serious problems in their attitude to dealing effectively with the disease…. These perceptions have also penetrated the minds of policy makers and government departments resulting in long overdue action on improved testing, movement controls, risk-based trading and bio-security advice. However, many in the farming community still appear unwilling to accept this and continue to demand ‘something is done about badgers’. This will continue to hamper progress until all stakeholders accept that bTB is a cattle problem greatly exacerbated by current farming and trading practices, and that it is only by concentrating all efforts on reducing the disease in cattle that any progress be will be made in reducing the disease both in herds and in the wider environment.”
Update: 5 May 2017
Lesley Griffiths, Labour AM, replied. It was a fob-off, making excuses and side-stepping the issue. Typical. Like most politicians, she is too dense to see the obvious answers. The answer is simple and does not involve killing wildlife.
Just vaccinate and care for the herd. Most, if not all, will survive. They will also then have some immunity to TB that they can pass on. The cows can not then be exported to Europe, but they don’t need to be.
The current policy or killing cows that carry TB (whether they develop it or not) also destroys all immunity in the herd and makes the problems worse. If the Government cared about that, it would worry more about encouraging immunity and less about exports.