Posts Tagged ‘Badger Trust’

Hare loss, more dead badgers & missing science?

September 2, 2016

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The latest in the series of videos which explain and expose the practices used in upland moor land management associated with driven grouse shooting has been released, watch by clicking “Grouse medication and hare loss”

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Hopefully readers will have already signed the petition “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” and perhaps also written to their MPs about the issues?  If not yet, then Mark Avery has provided an excellent series of “Firm Briefings” which provide guidance around contacting your representative in parliament.

A reminder also that an excellent group of speakers (including Mark Avery) are lined up for the forthcoming conference in Sheffield on 9 & 10 September 2016.  But be quick as Sunday is the last day to book for

“Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands: Conservation, Land Management & Issues”

 

Another uTube video well worth watching (less than 20 minutes) is the talk given by Dominic Dyer at the Birfair, to promote his recent book “Badgered to Death”.

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The clip is great and the book is well worth the read as it provides an excellent synopsis of the sorry saga.

Dyer and Dilger in their discussion were, I believe right about people attending the Birdfair, that they do enjoy contentious issues such as the badger cull, raptor persecution etc. being brought to the public’s attention.  May the trend of the last couple of years continue.

So, another petition to sign dear readers is that created by Simon King

“End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas”.

It has already reached the 10,000 signatures required to receive a response from Defra, that response is already three days overdue.  It is pleasing that it continues to head to the next milestone of 100k when parliament may consider it for discussion.  Two wildlife issues pushed onto the political agenda by grassroots activism, long may it continue ….

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Image, with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.

Whatever happened to the promise of evidence based policies? 

What happened to the robust science?

 

Missing again?

August 19, 2016

Just a quick post, to recognise today’s Birdfair contribution to the debate about the future of the British Countryside, and for facilitating a debate on the topical issue to “Ban driven grouse shooting”.

Conspicuous by their absence were the Moorland Association, the GWCT and the Countryside Alliance.  No sign either of YFTB spin bowler Botham either, perhaps still licking his metaphoric wounds from recent radio debates?

Simon Lester (retired Langholm Project gamekeeper) did his best to defend the indefensible?  He received a welcome and due acknowledgement for his attendance, and it was refreshing to hear him acknowledge publicly that grouse shooting walked up / over dogs is not economically viable.

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It was great that the leader of a political party also attended and did an excellent job in advocating for the wider public interest in the issue of upland land management, Natalie Bennett was very well received by an appreciative audience who realised that she had a good grasp of the topic, the Green Party is the only political party to have made a Manifesto commitment to Ban driven grouse shooting.  She certainly held her own when it was inferred that because she’d not worked on grouse moors, she couldn’t understand or appreciate the complexities of the issues.

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Panel left to right: Mark Avery, Natalie Bennett, Chairman, Simon Lester & Stuart Housden.

It was an inspiring day with some excellent speakers and if the Ban driven grouse shooting debate attendees all 500 each went away and did write to their MPs, did talk about the issues around upland moorland management with family, friends and colleagues then the panel did a great service and are thanked for their motivational offerings.

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Chris Packham and Tim Appleton enjoy a lighter moment. 

It was suggested and clearly supported by the 500+ audience that the Birdfair organisers having, in the words of Mark Avery ‘dared and won’ should make this kind of event / debate a regular feature – I agree, to have this debate and to hear Simon King‘s talk “Enough” is good; people were engaged, they were educated and they were empowered so well done Birdfair!

Charlie Moores and the BAWC team, Dominic Dyer (Badger Trust), Simon King and Chris Packham and not least Mark Avery – thank you.  As was recognised, the hard work is just beginning.

The BBC, badgers & tall stories?

March 2, 2016

Well, first of all the NFU so no real surprise there, then Defra whose failure to secure robust science on the issue and similar blinkered approach and stance on the [In]action in the uplands to safeguard raptors and most noticably the Hen Harrier but now it’s the turn of the BBC?

As license fee payers it would seem entirely reasonable to expect a balanced view of any topic aired?  Where there is robust science then it might be expected that this be put forward as part of any discussion?

The Ecologist’s headline Tall stories: BBC’s anti-science support for badger culling asks some awkward questions and these are then picked up by the Badger Trust who encourage members of the public to watch the first programme of the series Land of Hope and GloryLand of Hope and Glory to be broadcast this Friday (4 March) on BBC 2 at 9pm.

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Poor brock: a scapegoat for poor bio-security or a villan?

The Badger Trust  plan to write an open letter to the Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall, on Monday after the programme has been broadcast.  They also invite their members, supporters and the public to join them in highlighting their concerns through social media, so if you  share concerns then use the hashtag #bbcbias to deliver alternatives to the approach taken by the BBC.  They will be sending out a list of tweets that can be used throughout the day.

It is a shame, if the early indications of bias by the BBC are true, because such acts of demonstrable and one sided bias simply serve to indicate that the Corporation are out of touch and knowledgeable viewers then see the ‘brand’ as unreliable?  If it favours a particular group with bovine TB then where else has it failed in its reporting or investigations?  A topical ‘discussion’ at the moment given the recent revelations documented in Dame Janet’s investigation?  Equally of concern is that it does nothing to help the farmers case when people in possession of an understanding of the complexities and the science but who also have a love of badgers and of Somerset Brie?  What wins?

So let’s all of us watch on Friday evening, Land of hope and glory?  We can then decide for ourselves if the BBC offers balance or bias?  We can then consider what next we might each do or not?

Remember that  Hope was a Hen Harrier and ‘Inglorious’ an excellent expose, and a balanced one, of the ‘Conflicts in the uplands’ brought about by the management regimes designed to create habitat for Red Grouse. This management bias is to the detriment of some other wildlife and water management, in terms of quality for drinking and flood alleviation.

 

 

  

Back to Badgering : is £16m+ value for money?

September 19, 2015

Wednesday’s blog post talked of the newfangled thing called science (pers comm. CP).  Clearly the defra agencies and their Minister are not yet conversant with this evidence based approach?

Natural England have approved a cull licence in Dorset in addition to those already running for West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.  Apparently the applications were approved as the applications fulfilled all the criteria.  Natural England’s website appears to confirm that sufficient funds are in place to complete control operations, so does that means that no public funds will be spent on the continued culling in the two existing areas and the new Dorset licence area?  The ‘exercise’ thus far we understand is in the order of £16,777,000 which equates to around £6,775 per badger according to the Badger Trust.

In 2013 NE over ruled its own adviser to grant a licence to extend the Gloucestershire badger cull.  Four of nine NE Board members expressed severe reservations, particularly on the pivotal advice of the government’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Nigel Gibbens. Wood said that advice was “the key” to the decision to extend.

During the meeting (23 October 2013), the minutes of which were obtained by the Guardian, Prof. MacDonald (NE ‘expert’ advice) said: “The CVO’s advice that killing further badgers would lead to better disease control is not easily reconciled with the evidence.” He added it was “hard to understand” how further trials could be licensed following the failure of the initial culls. Other board members agreed that the extension was likely to increase TB infections in cattle, with one noting “independent advice should have been sought”. The minutes record discussion of “the fact that it was difficult to predict what the disease control benefits would be”. In the end, the board voted narrowly to allow Wood to make the decision.

Readers may further recall that …. “If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”  How then, with the state of the nation’s finance as it is, can this be justified?  No reasonable person lacks sympathies or understanding for the stress and problems faced by herds which are infected with bTB, but why is the English Government so incalcitrant when it comes to evidence based approach?

We read that farmers need to take consumers with them, they need to engage with the public about where food comes from so that they better understand the issues.  How is a conservationist to enjoy Somerset Brie when they know that badgers have been inhumanely slaughtered as part of the ‘production process’ of getting the product onto their plate?  Visit the news page of Stop the cull to see more detail of the issue.  Each of us effectively votes through our purse, across a wide range of ethical and moral issues and supermarkets are very sensitive to market share.

Fast forward two years, Natural England’s web page on GOV.UK clearly states that sufficient funds are in place to complete control operations.  We might read into that that the farmers, landowners or shooters will be funding the operation?  Conversely we might wonder if defra (or other department) through one of its agencies might have made available the next tranche of cash?

The Badger Trust’s recent press release in part here verbatim: “The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

We are reminded of Prof. John Bourne’s comment when he was the Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB.  Watch his informative presentation at the Badger Trust’s AGM Seminar 2015.

“I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.

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Badgers suffer needlessly, are subject of digging, baiting and dog fighting and as if that isn’t enough they appear to be a particular target for the current Government and Natural England?

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Defra & badgers …. can costs like these be justified?

September 2, 2015

FOI REQUEST REVEALS TRUE COST OF BADGER CULLS IS EVEN HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT AT £6,775 PER BADGER

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.

The DEFRA figures show:

2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000

2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000

2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000

Total costs – £16,777,000

The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.

Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.

“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.

“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”

Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.

“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

Thanks to the Badger Trust for sharing these eye watering figures with us.

See also a new nature blog

Miles King has also written an excellent post “Badger Cull Circus comes to Dorset”.

Given the above astonishing figures, then perhaps some more questions need to be asked about the funding for this continuum?  The agri-industry receives substantive ‘welfare’ payments simply for land ownership, these CAP payments are we understood supposed to support wildlife friendly management …. continuation of an unscientifc practice is hardly likely to gain public support for British farmers?  The approach adopted by Defra and or government Ministers appears akin to that for Hen Harriers?

DEFRA

…. seem to be taking quite a bit of criticism lately, Mark Avery has contacted them again to complain about the way in which a FoI was handled.  He has also sought an update on the Walshaw complaint to Europe after the RSPB had to take up the case after Natural England dropped it., see Wuthering Moors 49 & 51.

Perhaps we should revisit an issue we had with two Defra agencies, then again maybe they have enough on their plate already?

BADGER TRUST updates: meeting with Liz Truss & call on NFU to stop misleading the public over the impact of badger culling.

March 5, 2015

Keep on badgering away campaigners …. recent Badger Trust updates as circulated by the Trust

Representatives of the Badger Trust met with the DEFRA Secretary of State on 3 March 2015 and described the meeting as very useful and at which there was a frank exchange of views on the following key issues:

Cull Roll Out

We [the BT] pressed the Secretary of State (SoS) to confirm plans for roll out post May 7th, should Tories return to office.

SoS was not willing to commit herself on this issue, other than to say culling would remain part of the TB reduction strategy.

We pointed out that any plans for cull roll out must involve full consultation with all key stakeholders and a financial impact assessment.

We also discussed the need to engage local communities, the police and local authorities in this process.

We also raised concerns over Natural England (NE) and DEFRA officials being involved in recent farm meetings held in the South West, to discuss extension of the culls.

We also pointed out that Gloucestershire had fallen well short of its cull targets and even the Chief Vet had confirmed it was a border line decision if this pilot area should continue.

Since leaving the meeting, we have received confirmation from NE via our solicitor at Bindmans that the Gloucestershire cull licence could be revoked, due to failures by the cull contractors. We have used this information in follow up media interviews.

Misleading information from vets and NFU on the impact of culling (see section in blue at the bottom of this post) 

We did raise serous concerns about the misleading information on the impact of the badger culls coming from Roger Blowey and the NFU.

We pointed out that any move by Ministers to give credibility to these reports would undermine public confidence in the cull policy further and call into question the integrity of DEFRA and its science based policy process.

We also drew attention to a recent statement by the Chief Vet, that any reductions in bovine TB was due to cattle measures not badger culling or vaccination.

SoS did not make any effort to support the Roger Blowey or NFU claims, but she would not commit to getting Nigel Gibbens to issue a further statement on this issue.

We will follow this request up in writing following the meeting.

Testing badgers for TB

We criticised SoS for not ensuring badgers culled were tested for TB.

We also pointed out that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had confirmed 232 dead badgers were tested in the UK in 2013 for an EU wide survey. Test results showed an infection rate just over 15% in line with RBCT data.

SoS seemed to have little knowledge of the EFSA survey, but her officials were clearly uncomfortable with us bringing up this issue and they stated the test data could have come from Northern Ireland.

We confirmed we would follow up in writing with a request for more information on the EFSA data including if any of the badgers used came from the cull zones.

We also criticised Owen Paterson for making claims that badgers had a TB disease rate of 40% plus and called on the SoS to ensure any future culls would involve full testing of badgers for TB.

SoS did not give any assurance on this issue, but it’s clear the low level of disease in badgers is causing concern in DEFRA & we will keep pressing on this issue.

TB rates in England

We discussed at some length the picture emerging of falling TB rates in England as a result of tightening of cattle measures.

We also went over some of the historical policy mistakes which had led to the increase in TB over the last 15 years, particularly restocking after foot and mouth.

SoS showed a worrying lack of awareness in this area and a willingness to keep playing the Ireland and New Zealand card to support culling.

We used the meeting to take apart the justification for culling based on the New Zealand and Ireland experiences and left the SoS with key data showing how cattle measures were working (compiled by Jan Bailey).

Annual Testing

We pressed hard on the growing support for annual testing of cattle for TB in England, not only from wildlife groups but also vet, farm and landowning organisations.

We said the NFU excuse that this is too costly, does not hold water after the tax payer has spent £15 million plus on the culls to date.

SoS listened with interest and her officials confirmed a further tightening of test measures was being considered, but they did not go as far as to say this would involve Annual Testing across all of England.

We will continue to press this issue following the meeting, as we are clearly making progress in this area.

Badger Vaccination

We said we were pleased that the SoS had recognised the value of badger vaccination as a tool in reducing the spread of TB in badgers.

We pointed out that the Badger Trust was working with farmers and landowners across the country to increase the level of badger vaccination.

We gave our broad support to the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme, but pointed out that we expected key Badger Trust vaccination projects in areas such as Derbyshire and Cheshire to receive funding under the scheme.

SoS showed a willingness to ensure this would be the case and we will follow up with DEFRA officials following the meeting.

Badger Persecution

We finished the meeting by referring to the DEFRA Risk Registers we recently obtained via the High Court.

We pointed out that officials and Ministers knew that the cull policy had a high risk of increasing badger persecution.

We made it clear to SoS that we had most definitely seen a significant increase in badgers being illegally killed and badger setts destroyed by landowners and farmers since the culls started.

SoS made it clear that she condemned all wildlife crime and agreed with her officials to issue some form of statement on this issue following the meeting.

Wider views on the meeting

The Secretary of State seemed nervous and at times not on top of her brief.

Nigel Gibbens the Chief Vet was very noticeable by his absence.

The only officials present were her Private Secretary and representatives from the legal and TB policy units.

The Secretary of State took the unusual step of saying at the start of the meeting it would be considered private and off the record.

On walking down Whitehall earlier I nearly bumped into Liz Truss as she headed into Downing Street. I can only think the call for radio silence on the meeting came from the Prime Minister himself.

We gave no commitment not to share the discussions in the media (particularly as ITV & BBC were waiting to film interviews on steps of DEFRA after meeting).

Media Coverage

We have had extensive media coverage following the meeting with interviews on ITV West, BBC South East, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, BBC Radio Sussex and in the national & regional press.

Conclusion

We were never going to see a U Turn in the cull policy as a result of this meeting.

However we put the Secretary of State under significant pressure and we made a very strong case for why the cull policy should be halted.

We showed we had the majority of the public, scientists and even politicians on our side.

We knew our facts and we were no doubt better briefed and had a clearer understanding of TB policy than the Secretary of State who is responsible for its implementation.

We made some useful progress on the need for tighter cattle testing controls, more badger vaccination and a stronger response from the Government on badger persecution and wildlife crime.

We also left no one in any doubt that cattle not badgers are the key factor in TB spread.

Badger Trust can be very proud of the fact we are the only wildlife or conservation NGO to have such a meeting with either Owen Paterson or Liz Truss in last 4 years

Our [BT] campaigning, lobbying & legal challenges have taken us to a place many much larger and better funded NGO’s have not been able to reach.

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Badger Trust calls on NFU to stop misleading the public over the impact of badger culling

Ahead of a meeting with the Environment Secretary Liz Truss on the 3 March, the Badger Trust has called on the National Farmers’ Union to stop misleading the public by making claims over the impact of badger culling on TB rates in cattle in the Gloucestershire and Somerset cull zones, which have no scientific foundation and are not supported by Government data from the pilot badger culls.

At the NFU Annual Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday 24 February, the NFU President Meurig Raymond stated: “I want to stress that in the two pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire we are already seeing that TB incidence on farms has declined. Not just by a small amount either, in the Somerset Pilot area TB incidence on farms has decreased from 34% to 11% compared with two years’ ago”.

He then went on to say: “just two days’ ago, one of our Gloucestershire members was given the fantastic news that his farm is now clear of TB for the first time in 11 years. He is very clear that the only thing that’s changed on his farm is that we are now doing something to control the disease in wildlife”.

When making these statements the NFU President at no point confirmed that it was far more likely these reductions in TB (which have also been seen outside of the cull zones) were due to tighter testing, movement and biosecurity controls forced on the UK farming sector by the European Commission in 2012. He also made no mention of the fact that DEFRA have not released any data on the pilot culls to support any claims about the impact of badger culling on TB rates in cattle.

In responding to the claims by the NFU, the CEO of the Badger Trust said:

“Nigel Gibbens, the DEFRA Chief Veterinary Officer, recently stated that: “the fall in TB outbreaks in cattle herds, cannot be attributed either to the pilot culls or in Wales to their badger vaccination programme. It is to do with continued strengthening of the cattle measures”.

“Meurig Raymond seems to have forgotten these important facts when it comes to his NFU conference speech.

“The Badger Trust would never make any claims about the impact of badger vaccination without scientific evidence to back it up and we expect the NFU to do the same, when it comes to making claims about the impact of badger culling.

“We must deal in facts not fiction when it comes to assessing the impact of the badger culls on lowering bovine TB. When it comes to real facts the case against the badger cull policy is damning.

“Approximately £15 million has been spent killing 2476 badgers to date (£6058 a badger). None of these culled badgers were tested for TB, but data from a Government-led scientific trial and results from badgers tested by DEFRA in 2013 for the European Food Safety Authority, indicate a disease rate no higher than 15%.

“Many of these badgers were shot by poorly trained marksmen with no effective monitoring and took up to 10 to 15 minutes to die a long painful death by multiple gunshot wounds.

“This is despite the fact that the DEFRA Chief Scientist Ian Boyd confirmed at an NFU TB conference in November 2014, that the transmission rate of TB from badgers to cattle is less than 6%. The key route of infection is cattle to cattle transfer.”

The above two pieces are taken from BT press release sand assuming that the facts and statistics cited are accurate then it seems astonishing that a well respected industry spokesgroup would seek to promulgate unsubstantiated statements?  Many of the public at the moment are wise to ‘political’ PR so it would seem far better if any party in a discussion were to ensure provision of all the facts to secure credibility?

What’s going on in South Yorkshire? Keep on badgering ….

February 17, 2015

Looks like this Saturday, that is to say 21 February is going to be a busy day, the Badger Trust have an event in Birmingham where

Wildlife crime, cruel sports and unscientific wildlife culls will be top of the agenda at the second Birmingham Wildlife Festival and Badger March, which expects to greet more than 2000 people on Saturday 21st February.

A day of entertainment and field-craft workshops will also feature speeches from conservationist and comedian Bill Oddie OBE and key wildlife groups. A peaceful anti-badger cull protest march, the second to be held in Birmingham and the 28th ‘Badger Army’ protest against the government’s badger culling policy, will form part of the event.  For more detail click on the link above.

Badger & mayweed

The other more local event, organised by the Sorby NHS and one to which we hope to see readers is the Sixth South Yorkshire Natural History Day …. What’s going on in South Yorkshire?  Come along and find out.  Thus far there are a dozen talks scheduled and the programme includes the first of The Frank Botterill Memorial Lectures: The History of Moth Recording in South Yorkshire to be given by Harry Beaumont.  

There is also an opportunity to view and purchase some of the artwork by Paul Caton and others on sale in support of the South Yorkshire Badger Group.  The group do excellent work and deserve our support, as does poor beleagured brock.

Treeton Miners Welfare Club, Arundel Street, Treeton, S60 5PW.    10.30am – 16.30pm

Stands and displays and excellent networking opportunities for amateur naturalists, we hope to see you there. 

Come along and bag a bargain from our publication offers.

Keep on badgering away …. & Public Bodies; are they accountable?

February 6, 2015

On 3rd February The Guardian newspaper published a copy of the DEFRA TB Badger Policy Board Risk Review Register.

This document was drawn up by a board which included both DEFRA civil servants and senior NFU representatives. The board met in secret and its minutes were not published, yet it provided advice to DEFRA ministers on all the key risks concerning the implementation of a badger cull policy in England.

This document was only released following a Freedom of Information request by the Badger Trust and an extremely protracted battle with DEFRA in the Upper Tribunal, with the support of the Information Commissioner.

As you can see from the article, the badger cull policy was implemented despite the fact that it was considered to be highly costly to the tax payer, pose a real danger of spreading TB in cattle via perturbation and lead to a significant increase in badger persecution.

Despite previous written assurances, the Secretary of State for the Environment Liz Truss advised Dominic Dyer (CEO of the Badger Trust) last Thursday that she would no longer meet with the Badger Trust before the final dissolution of parliament at the end of March and the start of the general election campaign, (which, in the view of the Badger Trusts, is very likely to mark the end of her time as environment secretary).

Dyer reports further that the Prime Minister has personally intervened on this issue and we now have a meeting fixed for 2nd March 2015 with the DEFRA Secretary of State.

Dyer explained that the Badger Trust will have many key issues to address with Liz Truss at this meeting and we will keep the public informed of the outcome.

The Badger Cull Risk Register is both revealing and worrying at the same time, not least because of the lack of open and transparent conduct but also that at a time of cut backs it is deemed acceptable to cull badgers at a cost of £6.5m for the first two years with associated Policing costs adding a further £3.5m for the first year alone.  The Prime Minister, David Cameron, admitted that the badger cull policy was “probably the most unpopular policy I’m responsible for”.  Will it make a difference on 7 May?  Sadly it seems despite the current incumbents proclaiming ‘the greenest Government ever’ that the environment remains low on politician’s agendas despite the badger cull being one of the most popular topics in MPs ‘intrays’?

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‘Moor’ draining campaigning updates ….

Board meetings in secret, minutes not published, obstructive and incomplete/unsatisfactory responses to FoI requests (see badger item above) …. but it could almost have been an article about local Drainage Boards in the Doncaster district serviced by the Shire Group of IDBs? **  One might be forgiven for thinking that Public Bodies * are not accountable but just funded by the public purse?

Increasing Transparency, Efficiency, Accountability and Enabling Wider Public Value …. we can dream?  In the interim we have Danvm Drainage Commissioners Governance Audit 2014 still incomplete in terms of the DMBC Recommendations*** being actioned or implemented in full.  See also the Recommendations Status, Section D in the interim ‘reply’ particularly.   At the risk of being accused of satire, some of the entries are a ‘delight’ to read particularly if any reader has ever sat in as an observer at an Internal Drainage Board meeting?

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Recently, Shire Group of IDBs advised Doncaster East IDB that they should decline admission to Finance Committee sub-committee meetings and in the same letter failed to provide good reason beyond offering ‘no policy’, another contra guidance and contra DDC Governance Audit Recommendations but c’est la Doncaster area IDBs?  This same Board held a ‘Meeting Called by Chairman 9.7.2014’ and a side meeting immediately thereafter,  the minutes of the former eventually made public 18.11.2014 those of the ‘side meeting’ however …. when a request was made, the following reply was received:

With reference to your FOI request 9th January 2015,

1. There are no Minutes of the meeting following the Extraordinary Meeting 9.6.14.  [in case readers are confused …. the typographical error made by Shire Group of IDBs was later acknowledged.]

2. This was a private meeting.

3. This communication is not available to third parties.

Doncaster East IDB is a Public Body and funded through the public purse, see * above?  No minutes, private meeting, third parties – contra guidelines, contra best practice, contra recent Governance Audit 2014 on one of their other Doncaster Boards – accountability?

** The Forum takes an interest in the modus operandi of three Boards whose areas abut the principal peatlands in our area of geographical interest.  Other management services are available, other IDBs also operate in the Humberhead Levels.  See previous related blog posts ….

*** DMBC have made recommendations, however Appointed Members have reminded the Board that they are not obliged to accept recommendations or to implement them.  It was however interesting to note that DDC did accept the findings.  Whilst they endeavour to undertake improvements no timeframe is published for the Audit to be signed off.

 

 

 

 

‘Moor’ badgerings, ‘hare’ we go again and spiders?

January 18, 2015

The BBC reports that Ministers and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle.  Ms Truss, the Minister claimed the government’s “comprehensive strategy” was supported by leading vets. 

But protesters have claimed independent monitoring has been dropped and attempted to have the cull halted at the High Court.

The move was rejected by judges, after which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have always been clear that the independent expert panel’s role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.

“This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited.”

An independent report by the expert panel into the first year of culls found that “controlled shooting” of free-running badgers could not deliver the level of culling needed to lower TB cases in cattle and was not humane.

Try as we might we are unable to offer any link to any science which underpins the Minister or the NFUs ‘belief’.  Having said that one might reason you don’t actually need evidence, let alone allow it to be peer reviewed to ‘believe’?  What motivates Ministers?  The abiding memory for many will be the u-turn on the ‘independent monitoring’ of the culls?  Like so many promises made by politicians, it seems to have fallen by the wayside once the spotlight had been distracted towards other topical issues?

150118 Dug sett  hrk 761

What really saddens us here in the Doncaster area,  which is as far as we are aware a bTB free zone, is the systematic destruction of badger setts.  Whilst it was pleasant to spend the afternoon in the field so to speak, it was far from pleasant to witness the loss of another sett in the district.  The sett on agricultural land, accessed via quiet country lanes with locked barriers, was also in view of distant properties.  A large sett with a number of active entrance holes had been well and truly dug.  Even the hardened badger workers were quite shocked at the sheer extent of the ‘diggers’ activity.

What was apparent was the length of time the ‘diggers’ would have been at the site to have dug at least seven of the holes and one of them to considerable depth.  What surprised me but was readily explained by one of the group was the absence of badgers, or parts thereof!  Apparently a live badger for baiting and the associated gambling is worth around £800!  So, it followed that they would have carted off as many as they could.  That in itself would have been a particularly interesting logistical operation and one requiring a team of  strong individuals, cages and in all likelihood a vehicle.  No one saw a thing?

What really hit home as well, was the inhumanity that had to be inherent in the individuals engaged in such activity.  The sows would either be heavily pregnant at this time of year or they would have recently given birth.  If the ‘diggers’ didn’t reach a sow then the chances are such that the stress level would cause her to either abort or to kill the cubs.

The loss of this group pushes the ‘Doncaster’ population to the brink of extinction.  As groups are lost to areas, any remaining become isolated and weakened by inbreeding as there are no neighbouring groups to recruit from or to join.  Brock an iconic mammal of the quintessential British Countryside could be lost to us in a couple of years or so in the Doncaster area if the current persecution rate continues.

The other aspect which was quite noticable was the damage to the agricultural land, albeit in the main, the headland.  However the digging had clearly encroached onto land which would in due course be worked by large and expensive machinery.  The site had been left a mess and the landowner was left with reparation of his land to return it to a safe state, in order to work it, come time to harvest the crop.

Whilst badgers might elicit mixed feelings across the spectrum of emotions, such activity is against the law and it certainly appears to constitute tresspass aggravated by possible criminal damage.  Factor in the local ‘intel’ that gangs of criminals are working rural areas, it seems reasonable that there could be benefit from collaborative working?

Please if anyone sees anything suspicious, then please do report it to the police via 101 or to the South Yorkshire Badger Group.  Please, remember it is important to report the crime to the proper authorities as soon as possible. If calling the police (in an emergency use 999, otherwise use 101) ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) and make sure to get an Incident Report number.

An excellent site which makes much useful information available is Birders Against Wildlife Crime.  They have an excellent ‘motto’ Recognise, Record & Report!  Similarly the Badger Trust website has regular updates on the situation and Government stance.

Greenblobpride

ePetitioning for protection from persecution (aka ‘campaign corner’):

Mountain Hares are killed in large numbers on grouse moors because they carry ticks that might affect Red Grouse numbers. The shooting industry doesn’t want Red Grouse to die of tick-borne diseases – instead they want them to die by being shot by paying customers on grouse moors.  Much other wildlife is an inconvenient presence including Mountain Hares and raptors, notably Hen Harriers.

This epetition asks Scottish Natural Heritage to protect this native species from persecution from the shooting industry.  SNH is concerned about this issue but has only asked for voluntary restraint from grouse shooting.  We struggle to recollect voluntary codes or guidelines which have worked, two examples which spring to mind and might illustrate that suggestion are the reduction of peat in growing media and MPs sorting out their own expenses?
Buglife, an excellent wildlife charity, is asking for support for a tiny spider only known to live in a couple of sites in the world – one of which maybe destroyed by house building.  A planning enquiry starts next week so any signatures gained by this epetition will help to demonstrate public support for thisapparently insignificant spider (size isn’t everything in nature).  Whilst the epetition is about a rare spider, the bigger issue appears to be that of a planning system which is in such of a ‘pickle’?
Then this really is just in case …. you don’t know that there is an e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting that has stirred things up quite a bit over the last few months. It passed the 20,000 signature mark before Christmas and every further signature is valuable in the run-in to the general election campaign.

Government attempt to bury badger bad news over Christmas

December 18, 2014

Government attempt to bury badger bad news over Christmas

The Government today has released the results of the 2014 badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

In a clear attempt to bury bad news over Christmas, the report paints a picture of a disastrous policy which has clearly failed on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.

Although 341 badgers were killed in Somerset which met the minimum target figure, the target has been criticised as “rubbish” and “unbelievably easy” by a leading expert. Only 274 were killed in Gloucestershire from a minimum target of 615.

Commenting on the publication of the report Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said:

“Despite spending millions of pounds of tax payers money the DEFRA Chief Veterinary Officer admits for the first time today that the badger cull is failing.

Despite the many recommendations of the Independent Expert Panel from 2013, the standards of training and competence of the cull contractors continues to fall short, badger cull targets have not been met in Gloucestershire and many badgers have taken up to 5 minutes to suffer long painful deaths.

A recent MORI poll showed that badger culling was the fifth most common issue of complaint to MPs in the last 12 months.

This was backed up by a ComRes poll from the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild that shows 9 out of 10 people believe badger culling is cruel and should stop in favour of cattle based measures to reduce the spread of bovine TB.

It’s now time for the Government to admit it has got it wrong and bring an end to this disastrous cruel policy once and for all.

It should now follow the example of Wales and introduce annual TB testing for cattle combined with tighter bio security and cattle control movements, with compliance linked to CAP single payments for farmers. This policy has delivered a 48% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered for TB in Wales in the last 5 years without killing any badgers at all.

Courtesy of a recent Badger Trust press release.

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper by Steve Backshall is certainly worth a read as it calls for the cattle TB vaccination being tested in Ethiopia to be brought to the UK for field trials as soon as possible.

The fact that the European commission has put in place a 10-year timetable for its approved use in relation to meat and dairy exports to the EU has the potential to cause disquiet amongst those with strong opinions of UK membership of the EU?

Despite poor results Liz Truss is determined to keep culling!  Read the report Bovine TB: summary of badger control monitoring during 2014

At what point, one might ask should Ministers be accountable for failing to deliver as well as the exceptional costs in terms of funding the failure in times of austerity measures?

So, it seems that the comedy of errors is to be compounded with “carry on regardless” approach to “the greenest Government (n)ever” evidence based policies?

Greenblobpride

Draining, badgering & harrier (ing) …. ‘moor’ calls for action?

November 24, 2014

DRAINING ….

Readers may recall that the Forum have an interest in the workings and particularly the open and transparent conduct of business by Internal Drainage Boards, public bodies who receive substantive funding through Special Levy collected by the Local Authorities.  Regular readers will also be aware that the Forum’s area of geographic interest is in the main, the peatlands of the Humberhead Levels, principally Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.

Danvm Drainage Commissioners have recently been subject of a Governance Audit, the published report is hard to locate but to the determined it can be found on the Shire Group of IDBs website through the Danvm Drainage Commissioners page.

Linked to this Audit, an investigation into the modus operandi of the DDC, the Forum have also submitted a follow up Freedom of Information request to DMBC / DDC via the WhatDoTheyKnow website.  A response is advised as 4 December.  On the previous occasion we submitted a request, the refusal to release was five days overtime and further to the response we requested an Internal Review – we have heard nothing since!

The Shire Group of IDBs also provide management services to a number of other ‘Humberhead’ IDBs, including Doncaster East IDB and Black Drain Drainage Board.  Both Danvm DC and Doncaster East IDB were formed through amalgamation of a number of smaller boards in 2012, Black Drain DC is one of the last remaining smaller boards operating in the Humberhead Levels principally funded through the public purse.

The DDC Audit was not as damming perhaps as that which saw the demise of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Drainage Board, but it was a revelation of current practice of a recently formed amalgamation of smaller Boards.

P1030608

A Hatfield Chase drainage channel …. debris first noted 28 September, still there despite more recently mown drain sides.  This despite an understanding that there are inspections carried out ahead of regular maintenance works.

Late maintenance can cause slumping.

Late maintenance can cause slumping.

Land worked right up to drain sides, another example of Hatfield Chase ditches.

Land worked right up to drain sides, another example of Hatfield Chase ditches.

BADGERING AWAY STILL ….   

The Badger Trust is still very active, quite rightly in our opinion, with events and activities which are keeping the issue in the public domain.  If you have an interest in the issue and the views of those listed then click on their names and assuming that the technology co-operates you will be taken to a UTube video with some excellent statistics offered in relation to the failure by Defra to undertake science and monitoring to validate the Badger Cull policy.

Chris Packham       Dominic Dyer       Pete Martin     Adrian Coward

The crucial message is that as well as caring people should also DO.  So, as winter draws in and the General Election looms get the pens out or better still a series of emails or start or join a social media campaign and play a part in raising the profile of unecessary and expensive cruel acts devoid of any credible scientific foundation.    The Badger Trust and Birders Against Wildlife Crime  websites are excellent source of ideas.

 

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

The recent badger cull has reputedly cost in the region of £5,200 per badger, they must be moving the goalposts again?  Weren’t we told it would only be a few hundred pounds per animal when OPatz initiated the trial? 

 

Birders Against Wildlife Crime: Recognise, Record, Report‘Eyes in the Field’ Wildlife Crime Conference, Buxton, Derbyshire Saturday 21st March 2015 has an excellent line up of speakers – limited places so get on and book yours.

The call for making wildlife crime a performance measure for the Police will bring resources to the issue.  With the illegal persecution of birds of prey particularly Hen Harriers, it is difficult to gather evidence to secure a prosection so Dr Mark Avery has set up an epetition calling for the Banning of driven grouse shooting which he suggests would be more effective.  It has certainly been a blue touch paper in terms of igniting a concerted effort to raise the profile of nature conservation, long may the debate continue ….

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter? Image: Tim Melling

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter?
Image: Tim Melling

Raptor politics, another campaigning website is also a valuable source of information.

In the words of Ghandi:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!

Greenblobpride

 

 

Selective reporting by Defra again …. this time on the true cost of 2013 badger cull

November 16, 2014

Leaked figures from Defra published on Friday last week have revealed the cost of the 2013 badger cull – but missed out £3.5 million spent on policing the operation.

Badger & mayweed

The front page of Friday’s Daily Telegraph reported that each badger killed during last year’s cull cost £3000, with 1,879 badgers being killed at the cost of £6.3 million. However, a glaring omission from the figures is the £3.5m cost of policing the cull. When this is added on, the cost per badger is actually £5,200.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust and Policy Advisor Care for the Wild, said: “If every badger killed last year cost the taxpayer£3000, that would be a horrendous waste of money on a policy that leading scientists say won’t work. But the reality is that every badger killed actually cost £5,200 – and that is simply beyond belief.

“The government claim they have to do something as bovine TB costs the country a lot of money, and they say that ‘doing nothing is not an option’. But just over the border in Wales, they have looked at the problem, thoroughly tested their cattle so they really understand how many actually have the illness, and brought in more frequent testing and better movement controls. By doing that, they have brought down the number of cattle slaughtered for bTB by 48% in five years. Wales has a policy that is far from doing nothing, and is actually working. England has a policy that is inhumane, unscientific and is throwing money down the drain.”

The cost of policing was included in Defra’s cost/benefit analysis prior to the 2013 cull, so should clearly be included in the cost of the cull. Defra had to pay for the policing costs, charged to them from the Home Office, so the true cost of the cull is much higher than has been reported.

What is it about selective reporting by politicians …. anyone might be forgiven for remembering that there is a General Election in 171 days? What offers are there on the table from any political party with a credible record of open transparent conduct, are there any with principles who put people and the natural environment before profit?

Lest we forget that these trial culls are set to continue for a further two years, with no Independent Expert Panel to monitor the process …. did Cameron once assert to being the “Greenest Government ever”?  Then business and the establishment decided to get rid of “green …. ” and revert to “greenest never”.

Greenblobpride

 

 

Appeal for volunteers to ‘badger’ & other campaign updates ….

September 10, 2014

The Badger Trust have circulated this appeal, whilst we recognise that we are not on their doorstep there may be those amongst you who have a wider network and are prepared to circulate this appeal.

Badger Patrollers need additional volunteers

We [the Badger Trust] are sending this message on behalf of those campaigning peacefully in the West Somerset and West Gloucestershire cull areas – now that the shooting of badgers has started for the second year, they desperately need additional volunteers to supplement their existing resources. Whatever time you can give will be appreciated and your presence may help to prevent the death of a completely healthy badger. Even one evening can make a difference so please contact them.

The key message from the Somerset and Gloucestershire Badger Patrols is:

We are a peaceful presence in the countryside. Law abiding and non-confrontational, we:

• Walk along roads and public footpaths within the cull area
• Never intimidate land owners
• Inform the police of our intentions and whereabouts
• Respect the countryside code
• Make new friends with likeminded people

Get in touch:

E: somersetbadgerpatrol@talktalk.net
M: 0789 960 4217
F: Facebook.com/Somerset-Badger-Patrol

E: info@Glosagainstbadgershooting.org
Website: http://www.glosagainstbadgershooting.org

Thank you for reading this and please help if you possibly can.

Kind regards,
Pat Hayden,Vice Chairman.

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

 

OTHER UPDATES …. You just really couldn’t make this one up?

Regular readers may also recall the Malta Massacre on Migration campaign headed by Chris Packham?  Well Mark Avery has posted an update on the situation and it is just astonishing …. the new EU Environment Commissioner is from Malta …. Karmenu Vellu.  An interesting point mentioned in his Wikipedia entry is that Between 1998 and 2000 he studied at Sheffield Hallam University where he was awarded a Master of Science degree in Tourism.

Malta

& please …. KEEP BADGERING AWAY

There is also a new epetition readers might like to consider signing on the Direct Gov. website Hold an independent enquiry into allegations of serious safety issues and illegal use of firearms in the badger cull in 2013.

“I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician, who said, ‘Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot.  And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.  A statement reported in the Veterinary record made by Professor John Bourne (Chairman of the Independent Scientific Group) in 2008 to the annual conference of the Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work aptly summarises the situation.   So …. “Can the Carrot”?

How have Cheshire badgers caught TB, was it from cattle?

September 6, 2014

Ministers and the University of Liverpool must explain how a comparatively high level of TB infection in 41 badgers killed on the roads in Cheshire arose. In the 1980s a Government funded study undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) found NO infection in more than 100 badgers in Cheshire collected and tested for TB.

Jane Cullen, Chair of the Wirral & Cheshire badger group said: “If we found zero infection of badgers in the 1980s and we now find an infection rate of 25% this points to only one logical conclusion, cattle with TB are passing the disease to badgers. The NFU’s TB Eradication group had these results about a month ago when they circulated them to people attending their briefings but have only just publicised their findings to others. This suggests it was done to coincide with Natural England’s announcement of the resumption of culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire”.

The current research, by Prof. Malcolm Bennett, professor of epidemiology at the university’s Institute of Infection and Global Health has no government funding and sought to assess the prevalence of bovine TB in Cheshire, a county considered to be on the edge area of the disease and where no badger culling has yet been undertaken.

Cheshire dairy farmer Richard Fair, who is also chairman of the Cheshire Bovine TB Eradication Group, submitted two of the roadkill badgers for the survey. He told the Farmers’ Weekly Interactive: “If TB is already in the wildlife here, are we wasting valuable resources vaccinating badgers in Cheshire? I don’t think that vaccinating badgers where we know there is an infection in the wildlife is a sensible use of the limited resources we have.”

But Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said: “Of course it is useful to vaccinate badgers in an area where the disease has clearly been leaking out of cattle herds into the wildlife. Badgers generally stay put on their own territories and do not move any distance. Vaccination can prevent healthy badgers getting the disease and reduce the likelihood of its being transmitted by the small number who may be carrying it. This is something which the Government also clearly recognises, with the launch of its new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme this week.

“The results of this badger road kill testing survey is an official demonstration – intended or not – that Cheshire’s cattle have been infecting Cheshire’s badgers due to lax cattle control measures. This research shows that killing badgers would be futile until farms stop leaking bovine TB.”

See also:

Bovine TB, badgers and cattle: Politics and social impact“Thinking Naturally” curated by Gordon McGlone.

Bovine TB: The scientific evidence.  A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle.  An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis

Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.  Presented to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  The Rt Hon David Miliband MP, June 2007

So where is the recent evidence based science deliverd by Government agencies?  Natural England are reported to undertake Long Term Monitoring, or does that simply apply to their land holdings?  If NE approved the recent culls then they must have based any decision on robust scientific evidence?  The various farming / agri-industrial peer groups, must surely also have commissioned independent science to deliver evidence in support of any ‘arguement’?

In the interim Wildlife Trusts fund vaccination programmes.  When will there be a genuine collaborative endeavour, supported by sufficient funding which will see research deliver a balanced solution to a serious problem?

 

‘Moor’ badgering after Administrative Court rejects Badger Trust’s application?

August 31, 2014

Badger Trust court challenge rejected, but serious concerns remain over continuation of pilot culls

One might wonder what the atmosphere will be like at the Badger Trust Annual Meeting this coming week?  The gathering comes on the back of the reject rejection by the Administrative Court to permit the Trust to move to JR Natural England and the Minister Liz Truss.

Badger & mayweed

On 29 August the Administrative Court handed down its judgment in Badger Trust’s judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to continue the pilot culls without independent oversight.

In line with the precautionary approach adopted by the Secretary of State during the development and implementation of the policy, Badger Trust had understood from statements made by her predecessors that an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) would oversee, and analyse the results from, the pilot culls until a final decision was made on whether or not to roll out the culls to other areas.

However, despite the IEP finding [seven reports] that the first year of the pilot culls failed (by a significant margin) to achieve appropriate standards of both effectiveness and humaneness, the Secretary of State decided to continue the pilot culls with a view to a future roll-out, but without independent oversight to ensure such standards can actually be met. The Badger Trust therefore brought proceedings to prevent the Secretary of State from breaking her promise.

The Administrative Court has today found that, as a matter of law, the Secretary of State’s assurances did not amount to an enforceable legitimate expectation. However, the Court also rejected the Secretary of State’s attempt to argue that if there was a legitimate expectation she had properly considered whether she could resile from it.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust, commented:

“The Trust is considering its options in respect of an appeal against the Court’s decision. However, this judgment does not detract from the serious public concerns over the continuation of the cull, including the most recent leaks regarding potentially unlawful and unsafe activity undertaken by culling contractors during the 2013 culls. Given the indisputable failure of the 2013 culls, the still unresolved issues regarding safety and the significant uncertainty over the numbers of badgers to be killed in 2014, the only sensible option for the Secretary of State is to call a halt to these pilots, and the potentially unnecessary and inhumane deaths of hundreds of badgers.

“However, if she is not willing to do so, we call on Ms Truss to reinstate the IEP. As Counsel for the Trust, David Wolfe QC, observed during the hearing, the Secretary of State is not just moving the goal posts, but has banished the independent referee from the pitch. Whatever happens during the second year of the culls, in the absence of the IEP, it will be impossible to trust any findings supporting a wider roll out, not least because this is already clearly the preferred option of the Secretary of State.”

 

A case might be made that such a decision simply evidences that politicians are not particularly honourable when it comes to ‘promises’ and reasonable expactations of ‘normal’ people.  Why would a Government not want to monitor with robust science the impact and outcomes of trials?  The 2013 culls were a failure, the evidence coming out of Wales recently is demonstrating more efficient and cost effective options, so one might be forgiven for asking what on earth is actually behind the politicians motivation and why are they so obstinately sett in their ways?

As this post is being written the Badger Trust will be holding its annual conference at the University of Wales in Pontypridd from the 29th to 31st August.

The Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Professor Christianne Glossop, will be the opening speaker at a special session of the conference on the morning of Friday 29 August to focus on how the Welsh Government is tackling the bovine TB epidemic by a comprehensive approach including annual testing of cattle, strict biosecurity measures, movement control and a badger vaccination programme, with a longer term objective to also implement the use of TB cattle vaccines. This opening session will be attended by representatives from Badger Trust groups, conservationists and wildlife organisations and landowners and farmers.

By holding the event in Wales the Badger Trust is aiming to focus attention on the alternative strategy of the Welsh Government for eradicating bovine TB without culling badgers. This strategy is proving increasingly successful with the latest statistics collated by DEFRA showing an 18% drop in new Bovine TB incidents in cattle in Wales over the last 12 months to May 2014, the lowest level for six years.

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

Moving goalposts and independent referees …. is democracy is at risk when there is no accountability nor credible science applied to decisions made (reputedly on the public’s behalf)?  

 

 

Natural England authorise ‘moor’ badger culls ….

August 26, 2014

We have just received the astonishing news that the agency responsible for advice to government on nature conservation matters have approved the next tranche of badger culls.  This despite the findings of the Government Independent Expert Panel findings and ahead of the outcome of the Badger Trust’s application to Judicially Review NE and the Minister Liz Truss MP.  See post of 21 August for details.  As Roderick Leslie commented on a Mark Avery post recently of Natural England – after all, what’s the point of having these useless, obstructive quangos if they can’t be thrust out on the end of the toasting fork at awkward moments ? 

 

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As a result Up to 1876 Badgers Targeted as New Culls Given the Green Light

Badger culling could resume in Gloucestershire and Somerset at any time now after the go-ahead by the government body, Natural England, today.

‘Letters of authorisation’ have been issued to allow cullers to kill badgers in the two counties. The letters stipulate that between 615 and 1091 badgers must be killed in Gloucestershire, and between 316 and 785 in Somerset.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“As we speak, the High Court is still contemplating the Badger Trust legal challenge against the cull, so I consider Natural England have jumped the gun. At the same time, there is now a criminal investigation taking place by the police regarding reports of contractors who stalked badgers with loaded weapons on a golf course and close to residential housing. In the circumstances I fail to understand why the government feels it is acceptable to re-start the culls while these issues are unanswered. Confidence in the ability of badger culling to actually solve the problem of bTB was already low, but recently it has also collapsed in terms of humaneness and of public safety. It is now an utter shambles but it is apparent that there is a determination to proceed, come what may.

“Meanwhile in Wales, they have reduced bovine TB by 50% in five years, a figure farmers in England would be ecstatic about. But this has taken place without a badger cull, with the emphasis on farming measures and, crucially, annual testing of cattle – because you cannot beat the disease if you do not know how many cows have bTB. The Welsh government have made it clear that this is the reason for their success – but the National Farmers’ Union here in England refuse to do annual testing because they claim it costs too much. Yet they were prepared to spend £10m last year on killing 1861 badgers, and they are about to do the same again. It is a failure of judgement, a failed policy and it will fail their own members, the farmers who desperately need an effective solution.”

“The number of badgers to be killed also raises concerns, said Dyer, both because of the way numbers were counted last year, and also because of the alleged falsification of hair trap data (used to count the number of badgers) by AHVLA contractors last year – a story recently reported in the Sunday Times.

“Last year, the government estimated the total number of badgers in the two areas completely incorrectly – that is what led to Owen Paterson claiming the badgers had moved the goalposts. So how are we supposed to have any confidence that they have the numbers right this year? The number to be shot will be a percentage of the total number in the area – but if they have that wrong again, there is a danger of causing local extinctions. Ultimately though, these are sentient animals that are being slaughtered for a policy that simply will not work.”

Hen Harrier Day aftermath & badger marches

August 11, 2014

Well, it looked wet up at the Derwent Dam in the Peak District but apparently all attending appeared to consider it well worth the effort. Well done to all the 570 who turned out to evidence public fury over the continuing illegal persecution of raptors.

Hen Harrier Day 2014 has certainly provoked a media campaign by the likes of the Moorland Association, whose claims were quite astonishing and it was a great shame that the BBC reporter hadn’t the committment to test Ms Anderson’s assertions that driven grouse moors are great for HHs. Having said that they would be perhaps, except for the issue of criminals at work or play on those same driven grouse moorlands?  Therein lay the failure of Faith Wilkinson, or that of her script writer?  Chris Packham did the campaign proud, no lies no selective reporting …. judge for yourself here.  An excellent analogy was made by the Shadow Minister Barry Gardiner who described the area as a Bermuda Triangle for Hen Harriers.  Charlie Moores BAWC called for it to stop now, not eventually if the draft Hen Harrier Recovery Plan ever materialises …. seven years in the gestation, the egg is addled from so much rhetoric and hot air?

Mark Avery in his Standing up for nature blog, comments on Jim Dixon the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park’s writing in Saturday morning’s Times newspaper that “…a bird that has a proven disruptive influence on wild grouse exists uneasily with raising large bags of grouse for sport. The naturalists will be angry tomorrow, but it’s hard to see anger doing any practical good for hen harriers. Enlightened moorland owners and a new generation of keepers who show respect for nature hold the future of this special bird in their hands‘” as being presumptious and suggestive of an “unnecessarily understanding of the criminal activities that have reduced hen harriers to such low numbers in the English uplands, and unnecessarily dismissive of the views of the people whose taxes pay for the National Park activities.”  As Avery further mentions, Dixon’s comment must surely be in a personal capacity?  One thing is for sure …. the epetition signatures slowly creep towards the target 100,000 today there are 13,487 a significant increase on the last day or so.

 

Hen-Harrier-Day-lg

 

 

BADGERING MATTERS?

Sadly to stay on the topic of animal persecution …. Paterson departed calling environmentalists “Green blobs” but it seems that his successor Liz Truss MP is carrying on the ConDem persecution of badgers regardless.  The Badger Trust are appealing to people to support and join us for the Colchester March Against The Badger Cull this Saturday, 16th August 2014.

This march is the last to be held before Badger Trust takes DEFRA to judicial review on 21st August and could also be the last before killing resumes in Somerset and Gloucestershire this year. As always, your attendance is extremely appreciated and important in making these events a success. Please bring family, friends, buggies, dogs, all welcome.

The organisers ask that everyone assemble at 1pm at Colchester Castle, Castle Park, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1TJ. Guest speakers include Dominic Dyer CEO of Badger Trust& Policy Advisor for Care For The Wild, Adrian Coward of Somerset Badger Group and Sarah Geller, Wildlife Campaigner.

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It’s not exactly on our doorstep, but it is a peaceful protest in support of protecting an iconic species of the quintissential English countryside.  If readers are unable to get then perhaps they could be persuaded to circulate the appeal and notification to their friends, family and network contacts.  Poor brock deserves fair hearing of robust science but there are those in power who seem to disguard what doesn’t suit their case?

Readers might be minded also to consider writing to their MPs, to the new Minister Liz Truss MP to ask for a rethink?

Hen Harriers and badgers, to see either or both are truly memorable and magical moments, they deserve a future.  Help us make sure that future generations too can experience those same magical moments.

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Keep on ‘badgering’ …. DEFRA found to be acting outwith the public interest?

August 6, 2014

We are pleased to be able to update readers of the latest in the long running saga of badger culling, we are grateful to the Badger Trust and South Yorkshire Badger Group for sharing this with us.

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Public interest found to be in favour of disclosure of secret badger cull policy documents

On 31st July 2014 the Upper Tribunal held that it was “not persuaded” by DEFRA’s justifications for withholding key badger culling policy documents.

In May 2012, the Badger Trust requested documents relating to the controversial development of the Government’s badger cull policy in 2010. Unknown to the Badger Trust, these documents related to the involvement of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) on a secret project board set up to explore essential aspects of the Government’s policy. DEFRA refused to disclose the Risk and Issue Logs (RILs), which demonstrate the project board’s hidden assessment of the risks associated with developing a farmer-led badger cull prior to the Minister’s decision on introducing the policy.

In June 2013, the Information Commissioner ordered DEFRA to disclose the RILs, finding that the public interest test favoured disclosure. DEFRA appealed to the First-tier Tribunal. The case was exceptionally transferred directly to the Upper Tribunal where it was vigorously defended by the Information Commissioner together with the Badger Trust.

Following two days of evidence and submissions at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Tribunal indicated that it was unconvinced by any of DEFRA’s public interest arguments to justify withholding the RILs. Full judgment will be handed down in due course. There will also be a further hearing around late October 2014 to address important wider issues to clarify the legal exceptions relied on by DEFRA to keep the Board’s assessment of the risks under wraps.

This places the Badger Trust at the forefront of potentially ground-breaking developments in environmental information law, which will assist other NGOs like themselves to ensure greater transparency and scrutiny of controversial environmental decision-making within Government.

Jeff Hayden, Financial Director and the Trust’s lead on judicial challenge, who attended the two-day hearing, said:
“The Badger Trust was unremitting and determined in challenging DEFRA’s refusal and today’s finding is a complete vindication for all its hard-work. Our legal advisors, Bindmans LLP, have again proved an invaluable partner in our battle to protect badgers. We deeply regret that we have been unable to save the 1,861 that were slaughtered in the 2013 trials.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust and Policy Adviser Care For The Wild, said:
“This is another important step forward in the Badger Trust’s on-going legal challenge to show that it is cattle, not badgers, that are at the root of the spread of bovine TB. Although the written judgment is awaited, the Tribunal Chairman, Mr Justice Charles, made it quite clear that DEFRA had not been justified in withholding these documents from the Badger Trust in 2012.”

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The moral of the story: when you know the cause is just then just keep on badgering and trust that the truth will out and become available for public scrutiny to the public who funded it in the first place.

The Farmers Weekly, a much read rural publication have also been forced to admit that a photograph they have often used was not one taken in the wild, but 25 years ago at a wildlife sanctuary and the activity it captured was highly unlikely ever to happen in the wild.   The complaint was upheld by the PCC, see here and here  

Another piece of pleasing news is that following a presentation made by SYBG, Doncaster MBC have agreed not to allow any badgers to be culled on local authority owned land, well done DMBC!  Sheffield CCwere the first to declare without any prompting, decisions are still awaited from Barnsley MBC and Rotherham MBC.  So any readers living in those boroughs might like to contact their local councillors and ask them to examine the science and guage the public mood for culling badgers perhaps?

Warning: the clip shown through the BRAVE website here is deeply distressing but the message still needs to be sent to Cameron and the continued unscientific, inhumane and barbaric blame mongers who obstinately refuse to listen to science, rationale reason and the public.  Disturbingly Paterson’s replacement Liz Truss has made it clear that she intends the cull programme to continue, a move swiftly lamented bt the oppossition.  In her first session at the dispatch box 48 hours after being appointed to Cabinet explained that after speaking with Defra scientific advisers she had decided to progress with the Government’s two culling pilots this autumn …. if readers are minded to write to Ms Truss then contact details can be found here (sadly they are via the Defra gate, but critical mass can be convincing).  Perhaps a timely reminder with just 273 days left to the next general election that Mr Cameron might like to receive correspondence about his ConDem environmental conservation performance ….

 


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Mark Avery

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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