BVA will support second year of badger cull pilots in England
The IEP report, published in April, found that the first year of culling failed to meet criteria for effectiveness (in terms of the number of badgers removed) and that the method of controlled shooting had failed to meet the criteria for humaneness. BVA welcomed the report and called on Defra to implement all of the IEP’s recommendations fully.
BVA has remained in constant dialogue with Defra and met with the then Secretary of State Owen Paterson, the Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens, and other Defra officials to seek clarification on Defra’s proposals, as well as calling for robust monitoring and collation of results and independent analysis and audit by a non-governmental body.
Defra has moved considerably, confirming a number of changes to its plans. In particular, Defra has confirmed that:
- shotguns would not be used for controlled shooting;
- contractor selection, training and assessment would be enhanced;
- the number of field observations of shooting and number of post mortem examinations of badgers would be in line with that carried out in year one; and
- real-time information would ensure a better distribution of effort and that poor performing marksmen would be removed from the field.
In addition, and in response to BVA, Defra has committed to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out during the cull. BVA is satisfied that the appointment of such an auditor addresses many of our original concerns. However, BVA will continue to call upon the new Secretary of State to put in place independent analysis in order to give confidence to the wider public.
BVA’s position on any further rollout of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers (and its continued use in the pilots) will be decided once we have assessed the outcomes of the second year.
Commenting, BVA President Robin Hargreaves said:
“BVA has always maintained that we could only support the use of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be humane, effective and safe. We supported the findings of the Independent Expert Panel and called on Defra to implement the recommendations fully.
“We therefore welcome Defra’s proposals to improve humaneness and effectiveness in light of the IEP report, and we have been pleased how far Defra has moved towards BVA’s position, in particular by ensuring a robust and independent audit is in place.
“It is essential that Defra gets this right to allow the veterinary profession to have confidence that controlled shooting can be carried out humanely and effectively. We continue to call upon the Secretary of State to put in place independent analysis of the second year of culling to give confidence to the wider public.
“Badger culling is a necessary part of a comprehensive bovine TB eradication strategy that also includes strict cattle measures and vaccination. Culling remains a hugely emotive issue but we must tackle the disease in both cattle and wildlife. Scientific evidence supports the use of targeted, humane badger culling to achieve a reduction in the disease in cattle.
“I’m proud that the veterinary profession has had such a significant influence on Defra’s position and we will continue to engage with the government to ensure the pilot culls are humane and effective.”
The IEP Report showed clearly that Natural England FAILED COMPLETELY to uphold its licencing conditions. The shooters ignored NE requirements on where to shoot the badgers; there was fraud (eg the deep-frozen badger submitted as a freshly shot animal); essential documentation to control the project wasn't completed by the shooters; unauthorised, untrained shooters took part in the cull; and shooters resisted monitoring by the official monitors. Natural England proved itself to be a totally unfit body to manage the cullers.
Further IEP input, strengthened sufficiently to stop future breaches of licencing conditions, is the best guarantee of acceptable behaviour by the cullers.
Surely a more humane and effective method would be to use lethal doses of anaesthetic gas whilst all the badgers are holed up in their setts during the day?
Whilst trying to pander to all interested parties, we seem to have arrived at a singularly unsatisfactory and ineffective culling method. Either do a proper job or don't bother at all.
The first issue is that the Warwick model provides strong proof that a combination of cattle measures alone will defeat bTB in cattle (and that nothing else will). The researchers have worked with what badger information is available (lumped under the general heading of environmental challenge) and they conclude – even more strongly than previous researchers – that killing badgers doesn’t reduce cattle bTB. How can BVA support the local destruction of populations of legally protected, much valued wild animals knowing their slaughter won’t achieve its alleged aims?
Has BVA talked to the researchers producing the Warwick model please? If the quality of the data linking badgers to cattle bTB is as poor as they say it is, then that data has not been good enough to support any of the badger killing done over the last 20 years, let alone to justify the 2nd year of the cull.
The BVA should have enough skilled scientists amongst their membership to talk productively with the researchers who analysed the many years of data used to create the Warwick model. I’d suggest the right way forward is for the BVA’s management board to ask for a report back from those veterinary scientists concerning whether recent research entirely removes any justification for killing badgers as a cattle bTB control measure. In Tudor times, it was a legal requirement to beat cattle unmercifully on their way to market in order to tenderise the meat; the quality of thinking supporting the badger cull seems to be similarly irrational and unethical.
The second issue relates to independent oversight of the badger cull. It’s only thanks to the IEP Report we found out that the shooters and culling companies flouted many of the licencing conditions they had agreed to, also that Natural England completely failed to uphold the licencing conditions they’d set. As the shooters and culling companies paid so little heed to their obligations when they knew they’d be subject to IEP oversight, exactly what independent oversight arrangements is BVA insisting on to ensure the 2nd cull is more humane, effective and safe? I struggle to think of any organisation except last year’s IEP that would have any public credibility as a provider of oversight for the badger cull.
The government suggests Natural England could perform this oversight role, however the IEP report showed the culling companies and shooters ignored the commitments they’d given to Natural England and Natural England took no action against them.
I look forward to hearing BVA’s responses to the issues I’ve raised."
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