Tag Archive | somerset

Stop the badger cull this summer

1456031_1439399486283031_1860908851_nThe end of the hunting season this spring coincided with the news that the badger cull would continue this summer in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Due to the conditions of the licence, we’re expecting the cull zones to be the same areas as last year and that the licence will allow them to start killing from 1st June onwards. With experience to learn from from last year, we’re more prepared this time round to get involved against the cull.

This is a shout out to anyone in the area to come and help us with sett-surveying. This is basically walking around an area looking for new setts and checking on ones we knew of last year. Sett locations will have changed due to the cull, perturbation, the winter, the floods and now badgers are becoming more active again with cubs running around, setts which looked inactive may now appear to be used again.

It is important that we manage to cover the cull zone prior to the cull starting as we need to know the location of the setts in order to protect them from the cull operators. We understand that not everyone is local enough, has enough time off work or money to help out, but if you are able to come down (we can help with fuel money to an extent) please do so. Contact us through email and we can pass you on to the relevant people. Gloucestershire Badger Office (who will be coordinating the work before and during the cull in order to avoid duplication of work and areas being left unchecked) now have a facebook page (open to the public)

https://www.facebook.com/Glosbadgeroffice

and a phone number – same as the one used last year – 07582 607913 – with a landline number being confirmed soon.

People are also needed to help with admin and fundraising especially as we’ll be helping out other groups coming into the zone which will be a huge drain on our finances. Information stalls in town can be a great help to promote the work we’re doing and spread information regarding hunts and the cull as well as related campaigns. If you think you’d be able to do a car-boot sale, fundraising event, stall or be able to get into the zone before or during the cull, please do let us know. There will be something for everyone, regardless of ability, age, experience and so on.

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Badger culls were ‘ineffective and failed humaneness test’

An independent scientific assessment of last year’s pilot badger culls in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset has concluded that they were not effective.

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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.

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Badger cull: government could be forced to take direct control of pilot

Concern over low number of animals shot so far has led government to seek legal advice on taking direct control from farmers

www.theguardian.com 2013-9-13 23 15 8

The government is on the verge of being forced to take over the controversial badger culls in England from farmers because the low number of animals shot so far risks the policy seriously failing.

The Guardian understands that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has sought urgent legal advice on how to bring the night-time shooting under its direct control, and has even discussed using gassing as a more effective method of culling.

A Defra spokesman, however, denied any discussions had taken place about the department taking control. “There have been no discussions or considerations about Defra taking over the badger cull pilots. The pilots are being carried out by licensed companies and this will not change,” he said.

On Wednesday night, according to information leaked to the Guardian, marksmen failed to kill any animals at at all. This week, the government refused to deny claims that fewer than 100 badgers had been killed in two weeks of shooting in the Somerset cull zone.

The badger cull pilots, aimed at curbing the rise in bovine tuberculosis (TB) which caused 28,000 cattle to be slaughtered in 2012, must eliminate 70% of the badgers in each zone, or risk increasing TB as fleeing badgers spread the disease further afield. But the Guardian’s sources said far too few badgers were being shot in the opening weeks of the six-week trials.

Ministers chose the more difficult option of shooting of free-running badgers at night over the more reliable cage-trapping and shooting because the former is significantly less expensive.

The Guardian’s sources also said the possibility of gassing badgers had been discussed. A government strategy on eradicating TB, released in July included consideration of gassing if humane methods could be developed. Gassing with cyanide was outlawed in 1982.

“The failing badger cull could make the public forest sell-off debacle look politically painless,” a source told the Guardian, referring the embarrassing U-turn on the planned sell-off of England’s forests. “That is largely because every problem so far [with the cull] was first outlined in briefings and advice to ministers and ignored.”

Badgers are being shot in pilot cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset to test whether free shooting can kill sufficient numbers and do so humanely. But the number of badgers killed in the Somerset cull zone is just three or four a night, according to a source quoted by the Western Morning News.

“They are having major problems. It is just a case now of who gets the blame for the whole thing failing,” the source said.

The Guardian understands that the total number of badgers killed so far is now more than 100, but is far below the 120-per-day average that would be needed to meet the minimum final quotas across both of the zones.

A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said it was “premature” to talk of crisis, as the cull had several weeks to run, and a Defra spokesman said: “We are not commenting on operational details.”

The Guardian previously revealed that, according to experts, the population estimates for badgers in the cull zones are so uncertain that every badger in the area could be killed and the minimum quota would not be met.

Mark Jones, a veterinarian and executive director of Humane Society International/UK said: “It comes as no surprise that the badger cull is failing in its efforts to devastate badger populations in the pilot areas. This unjustified policy has been a shambles from the outset. The government must abandon this travesty that has already cost farmers and the taxpayer dear and caused deep divisions within our communities.”

The culls have sparked the biggest animal rights protests since fox hunting with dogs was outlawed, with more than 300,000 people signing a government e-petition against the cull. But ministers have insisted the cull is a necessary part of bovine TB control measures which cost taxpayers £100m a year for TB testing and farmer compensation.

Many scientific experts oppose the cull, calling it a “mindless” and “costly distraction” from developing vaccines for cattle and badgers and tightening cattle movement regulations and farm biosecurity.

Jones said Defra was also now in breach of a decision from the information commissioner, who ordered the department to release information under freedom of information rules to HSI UK on exactly how “humaneness” was to be measured and assessed during the pilot culls. He said the legally binding deadlines for Defra to release the information, or appeal the decision, have both passed.

Some information on humaneness was released and reported by the Guardian, including that the sounds made by dying badgers was part of the assessment. But the documents were heavily redacted and the IC ruled this redacted information should be revealed.

Jones said: “We can only assume Defra knows that independent scrutiny would find the methodology to be full of holes.”

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Also see: Badger cull in Somerset: on the trail of the marksmen – video

Badger patrols are disrupting the cull, protesters claim

The quiet country lanes of Somerset were disturbed by dozens of people blowing whistles, shouting and shining torches into hedgerows as protesters vowed to be on “patrol” every night in the countryside to stop the badger cull going ahead.

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On Tuesday night the tiny village of Monksilver was “patrolled” by around 50 protesters against the badger cull.

Police cars also drove around the area and later “saboteurs” refusing to give names were seen also taking up position in the peaceful hamlet of just 20 cottages.

At regular intervals through the night protesters blew whistles and shone torches into hedgerows near houses to “warn” badgers back into setts and disturb marksmen carrying out the cull.

A number of 4×4 vehicles protesters suspected of taking part in the cull were followed and a loud car horn was heard going off, possibly as a result of a confrontation with protesters.

Farmers reported animals being released from fields in other parts of Somerset.

Reports on Facebook cited sightings of injured badgers and “dead badgers being put in sacks”, although there was no evidence of this, attracting even more protesters to the area.

At midnight activists, who did not want to be named, parked up in the small village to “assist in stopping the cull”.

The Somerset Badger Patrol, made up of local people against the badger cull, said the protests would continue every night into the early hours for weeks to come wherever the cull was taking place.

The protesters, wearing walking boots and carrying high lumen torches, whistles and cameras to “catch” any evidence of a cull, insisted they would stick to footpaths and ‘legal’ activity.

Aged in their early 20s to late 60s, the group walked around into the early hours looking for evidence of 4x4s and shining torches into woodland or copses to stop any shooting activity from even some distance away.

Stephen, an engineer who drives 80 miles every night to take part in the patrols, said the patrols were already making a difference by making life difficut for those carrying out the cull.

Others included Aura, a graphic designer, who had bought along her dog, and Gemma, a mother of two, who said she was taking it in turns with her husband to take part in the patrols.

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Badger cull begins in Somerset

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.

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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.”
‘Completely unscientific’

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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.”

‘Sensible policies’

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.”

‘Misguided attempt’

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.”

High-velocity rifles

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.

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