The government is failing to comply with its own badger cull policy commitments by refusing to assess how badger cull populations were affected by severe flooding that hit the UK in February, according to the Humane Society International.
The organisation is calling for the culls to be postponed until an independent local badger population survey has been conducted in both areas.
According to the Government’s badger control policy, it is committed to ‘prevent local disappearance of badger populations’, and in RFI 5834 DEFRA states that ‘Any signs of localized extinction will be acted on, for example by withdrawing local areas from cull zones’.
However, in a letter to Mark Jones, HSI UK’s executive director, Farming Minister George Eustice said the Government “would not require a further assessment of the badger population in those areas” despite the fact that flooding in both cull zones will likely have had an impact on badgers. There were several reported incidents locally of badgers being rescued from drowning or badger carcasses being washed up in the floods.
Mark Jones said: “Both Somerset and Gloucestershire were badly affected by adverse weather conditions including severe flooding and freezing temperatures only weeks after badgers in these areas had already endured shooting during the government’s culls. Many badger setts will have been engulfed by water, and cubs will have been at risk of drowning. Some of the badgers who survived the culls will undoubtedly have perished. We know that the bodies of drowned badgers were reported, including by farmers, and a few lucky but exhausted badgers were rescued. We fear these few may have been the tip of the iceberg. It’s quite possible that hundreds of badgers in a local area could have died. Notwithstanding our contention that badger culling is unnecessary, inhumane and ineffective as a means of controlling TB in cattle, it would be irresponsible of DEFRA to allow further culling to take place without first carrying out thorough surveys in the cull zones to assess the combined impacts of badger culling and adverse weather on badger numbers. We are urging DEFRA to comply with its own policy and postpone the cull while it at least establishes how many of these poor creatures there are left.”
Eustice wrote “There is currently no evidence that the national badger population has been significantly affected by the recent flooding.” However HSI UK maintains that the impact on the national badger population is irrelevant, because in order to be compliant with its own policy and stated commitments, DEFRA must establish any significant impact on the local population.