Posts Tagged ‘bTB’

To cull or not to cull? 1

August 31, 2016

Badger exiting sett TM 29067384770_53431bdf0b_z

Image with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.

I wrote recently about the informative and inspirational talks at the Birdfair last weekend.  After hearing Dominic Dyer‘s passionate presentation about the history and ongoing politics which lie behind the Badger Cull I bought the book and would thoroughly recommend anyone wanting a ‘potted history’ of the politics behind the issue to consider doing the same.  Well written, readable and informative, my only slight grumble is that there is no list of reference sources or further reading.  Readable – if you can cope with being irritated and astonished by the utter incompetence detailed in its pages?

Whilst I’d not claim to be an expert on the subject matter nor the politics behind the issue I do consider myself to be a reasonably informed member of the public observing the astonishing debacle which is costing taxpayers monopoly figures and where frustratingly there appears to be no winners.  The losers are both the farmer and the badger.

I suspect amidst all the managed media reporting of the cull, the public forget that after the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001.  Six million cows, sheep and pigs were slaughtered to halt the spread of the disease, whose epicentre was in Cumbria.  The crisis was estimated to have cost the UK taxpayer more than £8 billion.  But that is only part of the picture because the restocking of cattle to replace the huge numbers that had been slaughtered as a result of F&M, brought a new problem in the form of a wave of bovine TB that was sprayed across the country.  Dyer informs us, and it is on public record, at Maff’s Chief Vet made it clear to Nick Brown and Tony Blair that key steps should be put in place before any cattle restocking.  It included a rigid testing and movement control system for cattle.  The NFU priority was to get the farming industry back on its feet as soon as possible, that is understandabale as farmers lives and businesses had been devastated by the crisis.  Their President put huge pressure on Tony Blair and Nick Brown to override the concerns of the Chief Vet and to allow rapid restocking, including many from the south west of England (a TB hotspot).  As a result over the next 12 months hundreds of thousands of cattle were moved across the country, many from TB hotspot areas in the south west, particularly Devon and Cornwall, without any TB testing or movement controls.  Many were moved through markets with poor biosecurity, many of which according to the Chief Vet should have been closed down to prevent further disease outbreaks.  

This resulted in the largest increase in boveine TB in cattle ever recorded in the UK.  From 2001 – 2002 the number of cattle slaughtered for TB increased by 300%.  By the time TB testing had been restored in 2003, the figure slaughtered was 25,000. 

B2D

So, have the politicians learned anything since then?  It would seem not as the Minister has recently announced an extension to the cull zones.

Since the culls commenced no badgers have been tested by Defra for bTB after being shot, why is this?

I recall a politician recently asserting that there would be evidence based policies?   One might ponder accountability for ‘breach of promise’ in such situations?

Will readers consider supporting Simon King’s petition:

End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas.

Only into its second day it has already doubled the required signatures to receive a reply from Defra, let’s help it get to …. 100,000 signatures, when the Parliament website tells us…. “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament”.

Wildlife (abuse) is well and truly on the political agenda?  Please, consider writing to your MPs about the mis-management of upland moor land and the illegal persecution of raptors, the lack of science behind the expanded badger cull as well as the significant cost for no gain to either farmers or badgers.

 

 

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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.

PENTAX Image

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.

 

 

  

‘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.

‘Moor’ campaigning?

January 14, 2015

Wow, who’d have thought when we started this blog that we’d pass the 10,000 views milestone?  Well amidst the recent hiaitus we did – thank you readers.  Today’s posts are a bit of a catch up of comings and goings and in the main linked to concern for the natural environment and wildlife.

Readers will have noticed that the Government released the results of the badger culls just before Christmas and it seems that the culls are scheduled to continue this coming year despite another season of failed and realigned targets dressed up by Ms Truss the Defra Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs when the Report was made public. The Yorkshire Post ran the headline (in the weekend farming section) Calls to extend culls after latest pilot hailed as a success.  Around the same time the Farmers Guardian reported on a failed appeal by a farmer found guilty of falsification of the results of a bTB test.   

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Of other persecuted wildlife, the Hen Harrier controversy continues.  Mark Avery in his Standing up for nature blog reports on the Mutch case.  The RSPB video  posted on another media site is sickening and one wonders if slowly there is a change in the attitude of the law around wildlife crime? It is to be hoped that it does not turn out to be like the MPs sorting their own expense scandal out?

Sightings of Hen Harrier on Thorne and Hatfield Moors appear to be down this winter but the Blacktoft roost is still attracting a handful amidst the good numbers of Marsh Harriers. One observer in neighbouring Lincolnshire commented of a coastal site “Having completed the winter roost surveys since 1982/3 this is the poorest year of any for Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl”.

Readers might also be interested (but dissappointed if you’ve not secured tickets because I see that it is sold out) in the forthcoming Eyes in the Field Conference being organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime on 21 March 2015 in Buxton Derbyshire.  It is essential that we collectively continue to keep the issue in the public arena and the profile high, only then is there any chance of change.  Patrick Barkham (author of Butterfly Isles) writes in the Guardian of The mystery of the missing Hen Harriers.  The entrenched attitude of some has forced people like Avery to adopt a high profile stance by creating a GOV.UK epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.  

Greenblobpride

Another recent issue, well perhaps it would be better described as recently reported, are the stink pits full of Mountain Hares reported killed because of the need to eradicate disease which threatens bags of Red Grouse.  Readers might like to consider supporting another epetition Protect the Mountain Hare?

At least the Tawny Owls are still contentedly calling despite the cold winds outside as I sign off on another post.

Defra …. fit for purpose following recent revised (again) bTB data?

September 14, 2014

Defra have recently released

Revisions to bovine TB statistics – September 2014

This two page document, is certainly worth scrutinising and makes quite astonishing reading with errors in Government reporting ranging from 27% to 233%.  Civil servants and Ministers might be tempted to blame IT systems but surely, ultimately it is they who were responsible for ensuring that at the start of the programme everything should have been beyond question and fit for purpose to evidence, openly and transparently, demonstrate robust methodology and professional delivery through humane practice with quality assurance in terms of reporting outcomes and outputs?  I suppose the words “should have” are sadly no longer applicable to Government Departments which are an inconvenience to the “higher politics” of political agendas influenced by industry advocates?

This is the most recent revision, released very quitely and something which appears to be an ongoing trend and something which raises the issue of a Government agency ability to provide accurate figures.  Perhaps this inability to accurately record data is one of the reasons that the new Minister Liz Truss has not reinstated the Independent Expert Panel?  No there is clear need for independence then one might reasonably expect their recall?

We can offer no better analysis that that provided by Miles King on his excellent blog posted today which concludes:

  • We obviously cannot believe anything Defra statistics say about the extent of Bovine TB breakdowns, or the trend in breakdowns.
  • Defra are trying to cover up their monumental statistical cock-up.
  • The very data used to justify the Badger Cull is so badly flawed that Natural England must reconsider whether the Cull can be allowed, given the rules that determine its legality.

One might wonder if a critical mass of correspondence were to make its way to Ministers and indeed local MPs on environmental issues then we might collectively bring about reform?

To that end I have written through my constituency MP to the Minister Liz Truss, I will keep you posted on any replies received.  If all readers were to do similar then perhaps …. just perhaps as a General Elections looms?

Thus far an expenditure of around £7.29m for just two areas and what has it achieved so far, flawed data, inhumane practice ….

The Wildlife Trusts and others are calling for more work to be done on vaccination programmes and the public have got behind that approach and made substantive donations to appeals.  Badger Vaccination Report 2011 – 13 clearly demonstrates an effective option which good science and logic would reason ought to be part of the tool kit operated to effect resolution of this problem?

Badger & mayweed

I recently tried to locate a copy of the 1997 Kreb’s Report , “Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers” via the Defra website only to learn that the full report was not available.  An executive summary page was available.  A sceptic might be forgiven for wondering why Defra would no longer wish to make that document publically available?  Their website does indicate that a full report is available in the Defra library, it does not indicate how one would obtain a copy!

Not to be deterred, Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers Report to the Rt Hon Dr Jack Cunningham MP  (1997) can still be located with persistence.

There is an epetition calling upon Liz Truss – call an immediate end to the badger cull, which readers might like to consider signing after they’ve penned some ‘poetic prose’ perhaps to their parliamentary representatives?  I suspect that sadly this petition may (no pun intended) go the same way as did Sir Brian’s, but that should not stop us campaigning?

Finally for this post …. to add the heartening news that the Badger Trust have been successful in their application to the High Court to appeal the Administrative Court decsion that the Minister Liz Truss and Natural England acted lawfully and that legitimate expectation was not binding upon the Minister or NE.

Culling resumes …. ‘Hibernation’ as Autumn arrives?

September 8, 2014

There is still plenty to be seen and heard out there as the Autumn weather brings change.  This handsome beast, they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder so ….

Deilephila elpenor (L.) 69.016 (ex 1991)

Deilephila elpenor (L.) 69.016 (ex 1991) Elephant Hawkmoth

This particular specimen, found on one of its foodplants Greater Willowherb was somewhat lethargic and appeared about ready to fall to the ground where it would pupate amongst plant debris on or just below the surface and spend the winter.   Assuming it does not fall prey to foraging mammals

Another species easily found at this time of year is Metellina segmentata, it is a common species as can be seen from the distribution map via the British Arachnalogical Society Recording Scheme website.

140905 T M segmentata SH 0148 - Copy

Arachnid image above courtesy of Steve Hiner.

 

BADGER CULL STARTS AGAIN …. 

Unfortunately we have received the sad news that the Government is proceeding with the badger cull and we have learnt that tonight the unmonitored killing will start up again in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.

In the sights of ‘marksmen’ tonight are some 931 (minimum) 1876 (maximum) badgers.  615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset or 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset.  See Natural England’s authorisation letters for detail.  Needless to say they are redacted versions.

The topic remains a topical one, unsurprisingly and The Guardian has created a ‘badger’ page dedicated to the topic, the most recent piece by Damien Carrington has already attracted over 300 comments in just three days.  Interestingly this event is a ‘private event’, see the Glouchestershire Echo.  It is worth a read to discover the Police stance on this year’s event/culls.

The same article reports that the cull cost the public pocket £2,338,248 last year, a sum which was reimbursed to the force afterwards.  Is this figure the national bill or just West Glouchestershire?  There are also figures estimating that each badger culled last year cost £5,000 and the cost is set to rise this year.

No one could fail to have sympathies with farmers over the issue but is culling badgers in the barbaric manner of last year a way to get support from the British public at a time when they need loyal customers?  Will we still want to buy regional cheeses when we see the images from the area where the NFU and its members have held a private event and culled badgers?

There has to be a better way, Government has to listen?  Science has to prevail surely …. credibility is at stake if there is no monitoring?

See STOP THE CULL, where Perturbation and the consequences for the disease to spread as a consequence of this are explained.

 

‘Moor’ badgering away …. A Guest Blog Post

August 27, 2014

 

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Monica Ward, Chairperson of the South Yorkshire Badger Group provides an analysis of the recent BBC Countryfile programme of Sunday 24 August 2014 in which featured a piece on the planned cull of badgers and the issue of gassing as an alternative method.  This Guest Blog Post is provided by Monica, a tenacious defender of the iconic brock, and is drawn from many years of campaigning for their protection as well as an effective solution to the controversial topic of badger culls.

 

Although the programme on bovine TB was more balanced than in some previous programmes, there was one important statement made that was misleading.

It is true that the incidence of TB in cattle was brought down to below 1,000 cases from 1951 to 1960 which was due to the introduction by the Government of the Area Eradication Plan, where cattle were tested annually and slaughtered if found to have bTB.

In the programme it was stated that badgers were gassed in their setts during that time. This is not true. There was no mention of badgers having bTB until 1971, so the incidence of TB in cattle during that time was brought down by cattle based measures alone.

Because the incidence of TB in cattle did not significantly drop any further, it was suggested that the reason was due to the presence of badgers re-infecting the herd and that is why the gassing badgers in their setts began. The worst area for bTB in cattle was the South West so that is where most of the gassing of badgers was carried out.

Cattle continued to be tested annually until 1990 but the level of bTB remained more or less level. Gassing badgers certainly made little or no difference.

More recently it is understood that bTB can remain in the herd after it has passed the TB tests, partly because it has not been picked up by the TB tests which are not 100% reliable. Also, at the very early stages of the disease it is not always diagnosed, and so the animal remains in the herd and the disease develops until it reaches the infectious stage, thus infecting the herd.

Historically, the major mistake made was for annual testing of all cattle to be discontinued from 1990. Incidents of bTB have risen because of this and because of interruptions to testing due to such factors as vets being too busy to test cattle during the BSE crisis and Foot and Mouth epidemic.

It is a sad reflection on the present situation that some farmers are reluctant or cannot afford to spend money on annual testing.  Surely, Government money would be better spent on testing cattle annually rather than spending huge sums on culling badgers.

 

Badger & mayweed

 

 

Postscript

A particularly useful paper which Monica has drawn our attention to ism

THE ERADICATION OF BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS IN GREAT BRITAIN by W D Macrae, MRCVS, DVSM

One has to wonder why when the Welsh have managed around a 50% reduction in bTB incidences why Defra will not adopt and implement a similar programme?  Why is it that  badgers still appear to be the scapegoat for poor biosecurity?  When the countryside was suffering from Foot and Mouth and the BSE crisis, livestock movement was restricted and what was the level of bTB at these times?

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.”

Badger & mayweed

 

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 ….

 

Beleagured Badgers in Somerset & Gloucestershire still, but no roll out elsewhere ….

April 4, 2014

At long last …. the Government, through Defra have published the Independent Expert Panel’s Report on the Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  The Report  was presented to the Secretary of State Owen Paterson in March 2014.  It was apparently leaked ahead of the Parliamentary debate by the Backbench Business Committee through the Commons Select Committee on 13 March.  Pro-badger cull MPs boycott vote as Government loses 219 to 1, so will those who provaricated citing the need to read the findings now act to bring the debate back to Parliament and a free vote on whether or not more public money should be wasted on an inhumane and ineffective, unscientific cull?  Consider also the cost of the cull, per badger, and in times of cuts in public services – can we afford it when there are alternatives?

800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Panel were appointed in 2012 and despite the findings of the Panel it appears that Owen Paterson still intends to continue the two pilot culls, only this time they will not be monitored.  This from a Minister who is reported to seek evidence based science.  This despite the cost per animal, this despite the IEP findings that the cull was inhumane and ineffective.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope on the horizon is the announcement that there is some £24.6m to be invested over the course of this parliament in the development of effective TB vaccines for both cattle and badgers.

The NFU are reported to be ‘bitterley disappointed’.  Surely they can appreciate the predicament that they are placing farmers who have ‘closed herds’ in, as well as those who practice good biosecurity?   Perhaps it is the role of such Unions generally to represent the masses rather than promote effective best practice?  This continued persecution of a much loved icon of the British countryside will not help the public perception of farmers who prefer to work with rather than persecute nature.  The agricultural welfare scheme (aka CAP) is not just there to subsidise monoculture across the countryside but to fund good environmental practice, and surely it is not beyond the wit of man as a scientist to develop and achieve an effective compromise?

What is perhaps aseonishing is the fact that the Minister does not deem it appropriate or necessary that there is a need for monitoring of the culls.  Prof Rosie Woodroffe of the  Institute of Zoology commented on that aspect: “I’m disappointed that this year’s culls will lack the independent oversight needed to provide confidence”.  A case could be made that this is a Goverment lacking in evidence based policy from a Minister and Department where such scince ought to be at the forefront of decisions? 

Another potential negative spin off consequential of the continuing cull  in Somerset and Gloucestershire, might be a drop in tourism – might the public think twice about visiting an area where its farmers do not value its wildlife?  Somerset Brie is delicious, it is a quality product that deserves our support, but for me at the moment at any rate there is a principle based on sound science and at the moment the Minister appears rather muddled?

bTB can be devastating, no one doubts that and there is understanding and sympathy for farmers who have lost herds to the disease. Generations of breeding over years whiped out in an instant.

Together, a collaborative coalition can achieve compromise, but continued culling is only likely to cause more problems than it resolves?

 

 

“bTB and other wildlife issues” …. a talk by FERA to the YMG

March 27, 2014

We are informed that there is to be a topical talk

 “Using models to help make decisions on rabies, bovine TB and other wildlife Issues”

being given to members of the Yorkshire Mammal Group by Dr Graham Smith of FERA.

The meeting is, ironically, being held on Tuesday 1st April at 7pm at the Black Swan Pub, 23 Peasholme Green, York.

For more information contact the YMG.

 

Badger the Backbench Business Committee?

March 10, 2014

Here we go again, badger is back on the ‘Greenest Government ever’ menu ….

Badger & mayweed

The Badger Trust have issued a briefing note ahead of the Parliamentary Backbench Business Committee debate scheduled for Thursday 13 March, and if you are interested in the issue then it is certainly worth a read.  It is well researched and referenced and makes pretty astonishing reading in places, to quote cold

The high cost of culling makes a mockery of claims most recently made by Agriculture Minister George Eustice in a letter to Angela Smith MP dated 7th January 2014, that “It [culling by controlled shooting] will also be far less costly [than vaccinating badgers], with badger vaccination costing £662 per badger or £3900 per square km in Wales in 2012”. 

The briefing note does say that costs have yet to be published, but it reports that the estimated cost of the cull has worked out at around £7m which equates to about £4,000 per badgerAs soon as we learn of actual costs then we will let you know.

The Badger Trust have asked people to contact their MPs and to send a copy of the briefing immediately asking them to read it and attend the debate on Thursday to vote against any further badger culling.

In case you’ve not already done so, then readers might consider signing the latest epetition on the Direct.Gov.UK website “Stop the cull NOW”  It may be, and call me a sceptic (although I’d prefer realist) but the pro-cull lobby will hope that the issue will fall off the radar, but the BBC debate needs to know that people are following up the signing of Brian May’s epetition with more pressure for science based evidence.

A few other reports worth reading

 BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattleTo avoid confusion BBC is the Parliamentary Back Bench Committee, not a television company!

Charity Findings cocur with IEP Report.

Culling inhumane and ineffective.

NFU Conference Commentary.  This is a quite astonishing read.  Setting aside PR and media politics, fundamentally the facts have to be accurate or surely the NFU would litigate such potential libel?

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h 

Poor old ‘brock’ …. villan or scapegoat?

Image Tim Melling

We appreciate and recognise that the issue of badgers and bTB is an extremely emmotive subject, family farms can be devastated and lives ruined.   It seems that science is often neglected when debates become polarised, but why will the Government (past, present and probably future) not listen to evidence based science, why have they failed to begin vaccination programmes of both badgers and cattle (ok the EU complicates the issue in terms of cattle vaccinations), there has to be a way, to collectively and collaboratively address and resolve this issue.  This disease has been around since the 1970s, surely it is not beyond the whit of man to find a sensible solution?

Please, if you decide to contact your MP please let us know the response you receive, via execsec@thmcf.org

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