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.
As the National Farmers Union (NFU) prepare for their annual conference in Birmingham, campaigners against the badger cull are getting ready for 2 national protests in the city centre.
Animal lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, hunt sabs and animal rights campaigners from all corners of the UK are expected in Birmingham for a march and rally on Saturday 22nd February and a static protest outside the conference on Tuesday 25th February.
Read on for further details of both events and please attend if you possibly can.
NATIONAL MARCH AND RALLY AGAINST THE BADGER CULL IN BIRMINGHAM – Sat 22nd Feb
11am Victoria Square
On Saturday 22nd February many hundreds of people will descend on Birmingham City Centre for what is expected to be the biggest march and rally against the badger cull since the event in London last June when approx. 2,000 joined a march against the cull.
The event will include a stage with speakers, entertainment, marquee with wildlife/charity stalls, sett mapping talk and badger education talk and a march through the streets.
Schedule for the day:
11am – Stalls, entertainment, vegan catering
12 noon – Speeches start (see speakers below)
1pm – March around the city centre
2pm – Return to Victoria Square
4pm – Event due to finish
Dominic Dyer – Care for the Wild
Ama Menec – Chair of TBVAC Devon
Drew Pratten – Wildlife Campaigner
Dawn Varley – League Against Cruel Sports
This event is perfectly timed, with the National Farmers Union (NFU) (responsible for carrying out the cull) staging their annual conference in Birmingham just 3 days later! There will be a national demo at the conference itself (details below), but for the many people who can not attend on a weekday, please come to this march and rally instead!
We must send a very loud clear message to the government and NFU that we will NOT stand for any more badger massacres! Please spread the word, lets make this massive!!
Get event updates and help to promote it via the Facebook event page.
NATIONAL BADGER CULL PROTEST OUTSIDE THE NFU CONFERENCE – Tues 25th Feb
10am – International Convention Centre, Centenary Square
On the 25th February the ICC in Birmingham will host the National Farmers Union (NFU) Conference. This is a collection of individuals and companies responsible for undertaking the failed badger culls and planning to undertake more, as well as lobbying for less humane ways to kill badgers such as gassing and snaring.
The NFU is a lobbyist group for large agricultural corporations with aims that benefit them, rather than that of animal welfare and independent farmers. They have strong political ties.
We urge as many animal lovers to join us outside the ICC for a huge protest to show the NFU that WE WILL NOT ALLOW THE BADGER CULL TO CONTINUE!!!!!
PS. Owen Patterson (Environment Secretary) will be there, so bring footballs and goalposts! (Patterson said “badgers moved the goalposts” when asked why marksmen failed to reach the cull target!)
Get event updates and help to promote it via the Facebook event page.
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.
A controversial badger cull in Somerset is under way despite protests, the National Farmers’ Union has confirmed.
About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks in Somerset and Gloucestershire, in an attempt to control TB in cattle.
Supporters say the cull is necessary to tackle bovine TB, which can be spread from infected badgers, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective.
The RSPCA said it was “saddened” and anti-cull protesters have held a vigil.
It is understood the cull in Gloucestershire will start later this week.
In a letter to members, National Farmers’ Union President Peter Kendall said: “I am writing to let you know that the first pilot badger control operations have begun.
“This is an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry.
“I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with TB on farm – some of you for decades – and I hope now you will feel that something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers.
“I hope that when time shows that these culls have reduced TB in cattle – just as has happened in Ireland – that even more people will understand that while sad, these culls are absolutely necessary.”
But an activist from Forthampton near Tewkesbury, who would only give her name as Lynne, said the cull was “utterly unacceptable” and described it as the “extermination of the badger on British soil”.
“We’re planning a call-out of the whole country and expect people from all walks of life to come down to do all that they can to save lives,” she said.
“There will be a mix of both interfering with the cull and protest walks wearing fluorescent vests.”
Lynne said she did not believe the cull represented the democratic point of view and that it was “completely unscientific”.
“Whether domestic or wild, they have a right to live as much as we do,” she said.
“When badgers flee the cull zone, infected badgers may go into free zones.”
Following the NFU announcement, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.
“That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.
“If we had a workable vaccine we would use it.
“A vaccine is at least 10 years off.”
Mr Paterson denied suggestions from anti-cull campaigners that the government was simply trying to appease the farming community.
“I’ve been looking at this since 2000 – and the bacterium spreads from animals to humans,” he said.
“We’re following successful and sensible policies in other countries.
“In the Republic of Ireland the disease was rocketing until they began to cull. Now there’s a significant reduction in the disease.
“I want to end up with healthy cattle living alongside healthy wildlife.”
Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, which opposes the cull, said the badger population like any other would go through good and bad times.
“There’s no scientific or economic justification for the cull and it may make the spread (of TB) worse not better.
“This is killing without protection – they’re not even testing (the culled animals) for TB and they’re only monitoring the cull of a small number.
“It’s an absolute scandal.”
The RSPCA said it was “deeply saddened to learn that the pilot badger cull has begun and that hundreds of animals are now being shot in parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire”.
Chief executive Gavin Grant referred to the cull as a “misguided attempt to control bovine TB in cattle” and said the organisation was “seriously concerned that the methods being used to kill the badgers are not humane”.
“As we speak thousands of innocent animals are being culled in our countryside – and we do not know the extent of their suffering or how humane the methods being used to kill them are.
“It is very likely that many of them are lying injured, suffering a painful death.
“The most tragic thing is that this suffering is so needless.
“Science has shown that this cull is not the answer to bovine TB in cattle. In fact, it could make things a lot worse.
“Vaccination and better bio-security are the only sustainable and true ways forward.”
Police officers were earlier sent to parts of Gloucestershire to “provide reassurance” after speculation the cull was imminent.
And Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan said his force had been preparing for the start of the cull for some time.
“There’s been a good relationship between Avon and Somerset Constabulary and our neighbours Gloucestershire Police, as well as the Home Office and Defra,” he said.
“It’s their call not ours, but we understand we have a supporting role in ensuring that this democratically-elected government can push its programme forward… and similarly to ensure that people who want to protest within the law are able to do so.”
The cull will involve the animals being shot in the open by marksmen using high-velocity rifles. The badgers will not be trapped in cages first.