An independent scientific assessment of last year’s pilot badger culls in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset has concluded that they were not effective.
Analysis commissioned by the government found the number of badgers killed fell well short of the target deemed necessary, the BBC understands.
And up to 18% of culled badgers took longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness.
The pilot culls were intended to limit the spread of TB in cattle.
They were carried out to demonstrate the ability to combat bovine TB though a controlled reduction in the population of local badgers.
“We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll out of the method of controlled shooting”
Robin Hargreaves, President, British Veterinary Association
Contracted marksmen, paid for by farming groups, were employed to shoot the animals at night.
The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ministers evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilots.
Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a scientist at the Zoological Society of London, said that the panel’s “findings show unequivocally that the culls were not effective and that they failed to meet the humaneness criteria.
“I hope this will lead to the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson) to focus on other ways of eradicating TB in cattle,” she told BBC News.
Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said it was the BVA that had taken a lead in calling for the controlled shooting to be tested and critically evaluated before it was rolled out.
“We are unable to comment in detail on the findings of the IEP until we have seen the report,” he told the BBC. “But if these figures are true then they would certainly raise concerns about both the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting.
“We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll out of the method of controlled shooting.”
The pilots were authorised by Defra and licensed by Natural England.
From the Birmingham mail
Around 2,000 people packed into Victoria Square to take part in the Birmingham March and Rally.
People from all over the country descended on Birmingham to take part in Britain’s biggest anti-badger cull demonstration.
Around 2,000 people packed into Victoria Square on Saturday (Feb 22) to take part in the Birmingham March and Rally through the streets of the city.
Many waved flags, carried placards and banners opposing the planned controversial badger culls while others even dressed up as badgers to hammer their message home.
Campaigners then walked through the city streets chanting “stop the cull” as they marched while volunteers handed out leaflets to people in the city to pass on the anti-cull message.
Amanda Callaghan, aged 47 and her mother Carol, aged 66, both from Kingstanding, said they were outraged by the decision to cull the badgers.
Amanda said: “I saw that the demonstration was taking place and I just wanted to join in and offer my support.
“What the Government is doing is totally wrong. Badgers are lovely creatures and to see the numbers decimated in this way when there could be other options is just so terribly wrong.”
Sally Roberts travelled all the way from from Land’s End in Cornwall to take part in the march.
She said: “There needs to be a programme of vaccination rather than the culling of badgers. I am really passionate about this as are the thousands of people who have come to Birmingham today to protest about the Government’s culling plans.
“It is a pointless exercise which could lead to an increase in TB as badgers will flee and spread the disease while they do. The culls have so far cost around £4,000 per dead badger – a terrible waste of money. The time has come to stop the cull once and for all.”
Speaking from a constructed stage Birmingham Yardley MP John Hemming said: “While I do have every sympathy for farmers culling badgers it is not the solution. Instead of culling badgers we need to look at a badger TB vaccination programme.”
The first badger cull in 15 years began in South West England in September which means that around 5,000 badgers will be shot in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Farmers say a cull reduces the spread of TB in cattle but protesters say it is “inhumane and ineffective”.
An online petition against culling has gathered 300,000 signatures and former Queen guitarist Brian May led a 1,000-strong march through London to hand the petition in to Downing Street.
The disease has seen more than 300,000 cattle slaughtered in the UK over the past decade.
Anti-cull protesters say the disease would be better controlled with stronger biosecurity measures to protect the 13 million cattle moved from UK farms each year as well as a badger TB vaccination programme carried out by volunteers.
The pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset were launched with the aim of killing 70 per cent of badgers in each area within six weeks by “free shooting”.
But at the end of the six-week period back in December the shooters had failed to meet half of their target and the Government controversially extended both culls.
Those against the cull say the £1million spent on policing just the first six weeks of culling in Gloucestershire could have secured five years of volunteer-led badger vaccination over a similarly large area.
However, the Government appears to be pressing ahead with its intentions to roll out the cull to other parts of the UK this year.
Story link with more pictures and a video here.
From the badger-killers website
“At lunchtime on the 29th of November a moment in history was created when the guardian released this story. Telling the world that finally the British government had been beaten into submission and called an early end to its wildlife massacre it called a “badger cull”.
The cull was always sold to the British public as a pilot to see if over a period of 6 weeks, badgers could be killed “effectively, safely & humanely”. Toward the end of those 6 weeks we the public were told that the original population studies had changed and the new population figures were actually much lower, they refused to credit us the sabs with destroying their Hair DNA population studies and instead decided to blame badgers for “moving the goalposts”. With massively reduced populations (strangely David Heath had been complaining along with many farmers of population “explosions”) the target to kill was made much easier for them to reach.
What they hadn’t planned on was the perseverance, tenacity, endurance & craftiness of those opposed to the cull. Many experienced hunt saboteurs walked the fields and woodlands of the cull zones night after night, as did many other people, these people just like sabs came from a wide variety of backgrounds, teachers, graphic designers, care workers, the very rich, the retired and yes even the unemployed and students.
A dedicated number of these people before the culls started, going as far back as June last year had been sett surveying the entire area, one of them “Jo Badger” recently passed away, her passing has been a great loss to many of us. Their work was the foundation for all the defence of the badgers during the cull & it is these people who know how active setts are in certain areas, finding the Hair DNA traps was an easy task for them.
With a total of over 500 sq Km’s surveyed, protecting the badgers from free shooters was a question of team work, whilst some people working tirelessly within the law traversed hundreds of miles of footpaths and reported in any sightings, Sab groups and people prepared to break minor trespass laws got closer to shooters and often moved them on with noise. Several weeks into the cull a small fortune was spent on night vision equipment and the amount of shooters being stopped increased rapidly.
That equipment like the fuel in the tanks was generously donated by supporters from across the country, without their support the campaign would have struggled greatly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped with fundraising to get people to the zones.
When the 6 week culls ended and it was announced in Somerset that they hadn’t achieved their targets we sighed with relief & prepared to focus just on Gloucestershire for the final week, to our dismay they announced extensions, in Somerset with the drastically reduced populations they announced that they had to kill another 165 badgers over a three week period. Having managed to kill over 100 a week during the 6 week cull people on the ground knew they had a lot of work to do to stop them reaching their targets.
With little or no holiday time left to claim many people took unpaid leave from work, relationships were strained and many people were suffering with extreme fatigue. Still they did not give up, with the weight of knowing that the culls would be rolled out if these succeeded, people buckled down to the work knowing that tens of thousands of badgers lives were in the balance. At the end of the 3 week extension 90 badgers had been killed, making the Somerset cull and extension a failure.
The shooters having failed at free shooting early on had gone over heavily to cage trapping as a tried and tested method of killing large numbers of badgers, when we knew this for sure, our efforts accordingly varied and we focussed as much resources as possible at finding cage traps and “neutralising” them.
In Somerset we never found more than 3 cages on one sett. Meanwhile in Gloucestershire the figures on the total killed came out, it was shockingly low at only 30% of the revised pop. figure, Natural England issued an extension for 8 weeks with a target of just 58% to achieve “disease control” the NFU didn’t mess about and promptly put down hundreds of traps.
Protest culture has for some years attributed minor criminal damage done at night to “pixies”. Some people find this word annoying, just as other people don’t identify with the word “sab”. Semantics to one side, the cage traps were destroyed as fast as they went down, for the most part by very normal people doing extraordinary work, through the day traps were found then by night they were destroyed, each one costing approx £150.
In just over 4 weeks nearly 400 of these traps had been made useless. With “free shooting” being proven to be a methodology that didn’t work, cage trapping was undertaken to kill as many badgers as possible. We the British public just weren’t having it.
Whilst we celebrate the failure of these badger culls and the part we played in their downfall, we mourn the loss of all the badgers that have been needlessly killed during this cull. We would ask anyone who thinks that killing badgers to stop the spread of bTB to spend a few minutes watching this video filmed just before the culls started.
We will continue with our campaign, filming farm conditions, sabbing pheasant shoots, organising boycotts, all the time building our numbers and reach on social media. The culls may continue, but so will we.
As has been proven today, if you ignore the will of the people, the people will fight back, we are organised, we have built teams of people who rely on each other, our supporters know the methods we use and are comfortable knowing that we behave honourably, we know how to disrupt culls, we are strong and we are many, and we will never leave our badgers undefended to be attacked by brutes and thugs.
Whenever a police force approaches a grass roots direct action group to have a chat, the alarm bells should start ringing. In this particular case they wanted more than a chat, they wanted us to show them how we planned to behave, in return we would get to see how they planned to respond to us.
It would be naive to think that the police would reveal to us their actual level of policing, response times, crimes they were looking for etc. So it seemed on the face of it that we had nothing to gain and possibly something to lose, however we were allowed to bring in an independent adjudicator and decided it might be worth doing if we could get press out of it. Especially as we would only be disclosing the tactics that are discussed quite regularly in a number of places:
1. Disrupting the illegal shooting of badgers, with bright lights and noise (not fireworks).
2. The monitoring and filming of the legal shooting of badgers, where we have been instructed that land has been licensed, of course we would have to make our presence known to the marksman to ensure public safety, this would be our intention. As to “have the intention of stopping a lawful activity” is a criminal offence.
During the “table top exercise” police didn’t think an offence could be committed if no noise was used, It is difficult to say you were “alarmed or distressed” by a torch being used across a field at night.
The police were unable to tell us which farms are licenced under the cull and which aren’t.
As this information is being kept secret, it is impossible for us to know whether badger killing on a particular farm is legal or not.
Below we shall go through each of these pieces of legislations, we would encourage everyone to do their own research & remember Hunt Sabs go out every week all across the country during hunting season, they do often encounter police officers but there are very few convictions, as few as 3 in an entire year for “aggravated trespass” So don’t be scared by all these different offences, arm yourself with knowledge and you can steer clear convictions and successfully stop the cull using direct action.
“Aggravated Trespass” This law was created just to try and stop hunt sabs:
A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land , does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—
(a)of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,
(b)of obstructing that activity, or
(c)of disrupting that activity.
The intention of the direct action is to disrupt the shooting of badgers which is illegal, the fact that a cull may be licenced during “some” time, on “some” land in a vague area, does not make shooting badgers legal, it may well be that within the cull zone some farmers have not paid into the cull but have decided to shoot badgers anyway thinking that no one would know, but even if they are legit, we are not to know where that zone is and which land is paid up and legal.
It is perfectly lawful upon seeing a group of people with guns to shout to them “stop shooting, we believe you are acting unlawfully and you are now under citizens arrest and must wait for the police” This would be a particularly good tactic if the police happened to be behind you as it would be making your intention very clear; that you are looking at stopping the illegal killing of badgers.
If it is made clear to us where the cull is taking place legally, we will endeavour to publish the boundaries of those pieces of land, so that everyone knows where it is taking place. If you want to help stop the cull, we would encourage you to go to these places to monitor and film the killing of badgers, using cree led torches and videocameras. If you feel that you need to use noise to make any marksman aware of your position to ensure your own and others safety then that is a perfectly lawful intention, if it has the effect of scaring badgers away from bait points, thats ok, as long as that was not your intention!
General advice for dealing with the police is to say “no comment”, you may well come across some police who seem like thoroughly nice people, however they are wasting your time AND can be very tricky, for example:
Police officer: “Isn’t it terrible about these badgers, we are right behind you. Are you going to try and stop the shooting?”
You: “yes, we are going over there and hopefully we can distract them from slaughtering badgers”
Police officer: “you are under arrest”
Keep it short and polite:
Police officer: “My daughter is a vegetarian, I think its terrible, where are you heading?”
you: “I am walking the highways & footpaths as is my right, good night” and keep walking.
You have nothing to gain from chatting to police officers, a badger could literally be shot in the few minutes you spend chatting to them trying to present a polite front.
Prohibition of harassment.
(1)A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a)which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b)which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(2)For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.
(3)Subsection (1) does not apply to a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—
(a)that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
(b)that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
(c)that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
A “course of conduct” means that at least two incidents have happened to an individual, for example a marksman could say:
“at 9.30pm someone shouted at me to stop killing badgers, I was scared, the person shouting had flourescent trousers, I jumped on my quad bike and drove on to the next bait point. 30 minutes later the same person screamed at me, I was scared” This could happen over ANY time frame, half an hour or 3 weeks/months.
To avoid being arrested for Harassment a very simple method is to wear the same clothing as everyone else, this makes it much harder for anyone to identify you.
Combat trousers (or black trousers)
Black hooded top
Yellow Hi-Viz Jacket (these fold up small)
Cut off the arm of a black t-shirt if you don’t want to be filmed and recognised, put this cut off arm round your neck and pull it up whenever you need it. You can at a push use a complete t-shirt
This goes for most offences, if you can’t be identified then the legal system comes to a halt. By not giving marksman or police officers any identifying factors about yourself as you travel around the zone you protect not only yourself but others who are dressed like you.
Which brings us on to section 60 of the Public order act an act that has to be put in place by a senior police officer, to cover a specific area for no more than 48 hours, for the purposes of protesting it is used to stop facial coverings being used, An officer can ask you to remove a facial covering if this is in place and arrest you if you refuse, it is not until AFTER you have been arrested that you have to take off a disguise. Ask to see copies of the order, where it covers and when it was signed and by whom.
Section 50 of the public order act may be used so that police officers can try and gather intelligence on who is demonstrating and where they are from, by threatening to arrest them if they don’t give them their name an address, this is done when a crime is believed to be taking place similar to Section 5 of the public order act:
A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)that his conduct was reasonable.
Offences would include swearing such as “you f#$*ing murderer” but if no such offences have taken place, then a section 50 cannot be legally used, if you are told that you must give your name and adress under this section insist on finding out what anti-social behaviour is taking place, generally when police know that you understand “section 50 of the public order act” fully they may leave you alone.
Is not a criminal offence so you would not end up with a criminal record.
We would urge everyone to read up on these offences, so that everyone can feel confident that they are acting within the law, the police have been known to say to people “You have to leave the area” or “you have to take off the face covering” and they particularly like to try and get information about you, where your from etc. thats why its so important to know your rights.
Police do occasionally arrest people just to be seen to be doing something, if you are at the receiving end of that sort of behaviour, you could like many hundreds of people before you, be liable to a compensation payment from the police of thousands of pounds.
To stay broadly within the law:
Don’t swear or threaten anyone (section 5 of Public order act)
Don’t declare the intention of stopping a lawful activity (aggravated trespass)
Safety should be paramount for all parties, make sure that shooters are aware of your location.
Wear the same clothes as everyone else, this protects everyone, if you can’t run across fields stopping badgers from being killed, wear the same clothes of those that do, by standing shoulder to shoulder we can stop the cull.
“We are treading a line between the parties,” said Police Inspector Ravenscroft. “Public safety is paramount to everybody involved. We could request that the culling company stop activity on the ground on a particular night to safeguard public safety.”
With 300 of us we can make it difficult for them, with 500 of us we can be at most crossroads and hundreds of observation points which should bring the cull to a grinding halt within a week, With a thousand of us, we will stop it immediately.
Don’t wait for someone else to organise; find friends, prepare, be ready..