Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Dyer’

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?

 

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To cull or not to cull? 1

August 31, 2016

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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. 

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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.

 

 

Uplands, raptors, badgers, campaign updates and Short-winged Coneheads.

August 26, 2016

Last Friday at Rutland Water listening to inspirational campaigners and naturalists.  Today back on the moors.

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The first bird of the day was a Hobby, a fantastic little falcon who breed here and then depart for their winter quarters in Africa in September.  We were fortunate with perhaps four birds seen including a juvenile.  They are aerial masters and easily take sizable dragonflies on the wing and can be seen eating their catch in the air or from a perch.  Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were the other raptors seen.

Waders were evident with Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Snipe in good numbers as well as Lapwing on the exposed margins of pools.

The intriguing observation of the day was of a female Short-winged Conehead, spotted on the car window as I crawled along Limestone Road – where had it heralded from?  The curved sickle shaped ovipositor a good identification indicator and distinguishes it from C. discolor (Long-winged Conehead).  Records of this species are uncommon in Yorkshire but understood to be increasing although there is no mention on the YNU website of any occurrence on Thorne Moors.

SWConehead MW 160826 webConocephalus dorsalis: Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN UPDATES

Readers having signed the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting are asked to follow this up by contacting their MPs about the possible Parliamentary debate on the issue.  Obviously bespoke letters are best but for useful pointers and guidance see Mark Avery’s ‘Firm Briefings’

Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Conservation, Land Management & Issues

Friday 9 & Saturday 10 September 2016: Sheffield. 

For more information see here

 

Another equally controversial topic is that of the ongoing Badger Cull which is to be rolled out to other areas.  One of the excellent but equally frustrating talks at last week’s Birdfair was that given by Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive of the Badger Trust.  This small but incredibly energetic organisation has led the campaign opposed to the unscientific Badger Cull.  Badgered to Death is a compelling read, but it is also a horror story in so much as it provides a critique of failure by Government to address the real causes of the bTB outbreaks.  Bad enough that Badgers are illegally baited against dogs, that they are now demonised by Government who have discarded their own scientific evidence and ignored their own veterinary advisers for what?  Slaughtering badgers in a cruel, inhumane and astonishingly expensive way has failed to address the spread of the disease, failed to help farmers combat the disease of cattle, that is to say bovine Tuberculosis.

Any blog reader with an interest in the Badger Cull / bTB issue is recommended to read Dyer’s critique of the sorry saga as it contains much useful background and brings focus to failure to underpin policy with evidence.

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A reminder too that Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands is now available in paperback and has an additional chapter providing an update to the campaign to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting’s progress.

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.

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?

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…. 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?

Eyes in the field …. BAWC @ Buxton

March 21, 2015

Informative and ‘moor’ importantly it was an inspiring day.   Birders Against Wildlife Crime are to be congratulated on a fantastic Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference.  Even the tempremental technology failed to dampen the enthusiasm generated by the gathering.  A packed room saw some 120 delegates meeting in Buxton in the Peak District to hear empowering talks, to discuss strategies and to meet Henry ….

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Conference speakers take a break to enjoy the Derbyshire air.

Charlie Moores opened the conference and Chris Packham (in his Massacre on Malta t-shirt) and Dominic Dyer set the scene with their infectious passion for championing change for wildlife benefit.  Both spoke with informed and reasoned rationale, both offered options for solutions.  Both recognised the ‘political’ aspects and complexities.  Both had tried to take the measured route but accepted that there comes a point when compromise has failed and a change of tack and focus is needed.  Packham encouraged a stance I have long found to be an energising option, the “use anger as a force for change”.  It was particularly interesting to hear Packham’s view on his role on Springwatch, in so far as the main audience were “not a wholly committed audience”, he sought to encourage people that “caring is not enough” and urged people “to actually do something”.  He explained why he had chosen to play the “long game” and it seemed as a consequence he had taken some criticism for that stance.  That is sad, but human nature is fickle and oft only sees the surface?  Packham explained that the biggest issue in his view is that ‘wildlife crime’ is not a crime, and it is not seen as a real crime.  This despite the various pieces of legislation which are infringed, broken or ignored.  Dyer highlighted issues with Natural England and whilst acknowledging that there were good individuals in the Defra agency, he considered they were no longer “fit for purpose”, his solution would be to see them replaced by an independent wildlife protection agency.

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Chris with his new ‘friend’ Henry, who we understand that he may be ‘appearing’ somewhere near you this coming year.

Bob Elliot and Paul Tillsley provided examples of case studies they had been involved in.  Ruth Tingay introduced the audience to “Natural Injustice: the failure of wildlife crime enforcement in Scotland”.  “Natural Injustice: Eliminating Wildlife Crime in Scotland” offers some 20 recommendations, none of which appear particularly onerous, but then conservation is not everyone’s passion?

Alan Charles (Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner) and Chris Williamson (MP Derbyshire North) spoke of practical and political perspectives.  It was as they say ‘a refreshing change’ to hear a politician being honest about his past as well as his passion for addressing wildlife crime.

Other presentations were made by the Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group and Craig Fellowes, a retired police officer who now organises training for wildlife crime recognition and reporting.

Mark Avery as anticipated both entertained and offered thought provoking suggestions.  There are ten days left till his epetition is closed, so if you’ve not already signed it you might like to consider ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’?    Currently it stands at 21,971 so let’s see if we can have a last push and get it past 22,000?  A prolific writer his next potentially controversial offering is perhaps appropriately entitled “Inglorious“?

The other ask from Avery was that the audience consider voting for the nations favourite bird, an online (& at selected nature reserves) poll.  One cannot fault Avery’s logic about the benefit of the accolade to any of the usual suspects likely to receive the ‘crown’ (robin, wren, blackbird, kingfisher etc.) but if the Hen Harrier were to get into the top three for example then it would see a relatively unknown candidate see immense benefit from having a raised species profile.  Apparently there was surprise expressed by the Urban Birder when the Hen Harrier made it into the top ten.  So, Vote for Britain’s National Bird and send politicians and others a clear message?  

There was a Q&A session where the issue of brood management received a resounding thumbs down, so where does that leave the Hawk & Owl Trust?   150321 Q&A panel hrk 882

The Q&A session rounded off an excellent day’s conference …. here’s to next years and to Hen Harrier Day 2015 (9 August) and to the publication of ‘Inglorious’ just ahead of the ‘infamous’ 12th!   In the interim we all have plenty to do in terms of conservation campaigning ahead and beyond the forthcoming General Election in 46 days time?

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Watch this space for details of 2015 Hen Harrier Day.

Recognise: Record: Report

First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win. 

(Mahatma Gandhi)

Partially eclipsed …. eyes to the sky and in the field?

March 20, 2015

A very bright morning early on but as the hour approached it became decidely dull and overcast with grey clouds.  These drifted across the sky allowing intermittent glimpses of the much heralded solar eclipse as the moon came between us and the distant sun.

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The image above, something akin to a black hole or tunnel just manages to capture the lead up to the eclipse and light burst.  If your imagination were to be allowed free reign, then perhaps it might resemble an eye?  It’s one of those events that perhaps reminds us of our place and insignificance in the grand scheme of things?  Of eyes ….

Tomorrow is the Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference in Buxton, speakers include Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Dominic Dyer amongst others.  Tickets sold out very quickly but that’s no surprise is it?  Birders Against Wildlife Crime are to be congratulated in organising this conference and keeping the fate of ‘skydancer’ in the public’s eye and maintaining it as a high profile campaign.

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The natural environment, wildlife and nature conservation sadly appear to be very low on the political agenda at the moment.   One might suspect it will feature highly throughout tomorrows event and that is to be applauded.

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?

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’?

Greenblobpride

‘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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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.”

Badgering Defra & Natural England

August 21, 2014

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

The Badger Trust are to be congratulated ….

Badger Trust High Court legal challenge over monitoring of badger cull

The Badger Trust will be in the High Court on Thursday 21 August for a Judicial Review challenge against the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss and Natural England on the Government’s highly controversial badger cull policy.

The Judicial Review will argue that Liz Truss and Natural England have unlawfully failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the continued culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014. The Trust contends that the use of such a Panel to oversee the design of data collection, its analysis and interpretation was promised by the Secretary of State. Without such a panel, there can be no proper assessment of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation, something that would be needed before any lawful decision could be taken to continue with further culls around the country.

The Badger Trust legal challenge has received strong support from some members of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) set up by the Government to monitor the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the badger culls carried out in 2013.

Commenting on the Judicial Review challenge, Professor Tim Coulson a member of the IEP who has confirmed his support for the challenge, said:

“The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises. If this scientific advice is ignored then the data collected during the proposed 2014 culls will be insufficiently reliable for assessment of humaneness and effectiveness. This means that farmers, veterinarians and scientists intimately involved in controlling bovine TB will be denied the information necessary to allow them to assess whether the IEP’s recommended changes to the culling process have corrected the failings identified by the pilot culls.”

Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild commented on the Judicial Review challenge saying:

“The refusal of the DEFRA Secretary of State to put in place any independent monitoring of the badger culls due to commence in Gloucestershire and Somerset over the next few weeks, against the advice of the Independent Expert Panel which DEFRA set up, is a national disgrace.

“The caring, compassionate British public will not remain silent whilst NFU contract gunmen move through our countryside at night shooting badgers with rifles and shotguns despite serious concerns regarding the levels of training, monitoring and scrutiny. We know from recent reports in the Sunday Times that contractors employed by both the NFU and Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency were alleged to have regularly breached operating procedures by falsifying hair trap data, stalking badgers outside designated cull zone areas and using firearms in a way that put public safety at risk.

“I am very pleased to see that we have strong support from members of the Independent Expert Panel for the Judicial Review challenge brought by Badger Trust.

“We expect to see hundreds of people outside the High Court during the hearing on Thursday supporting the challenge, for what could be one of the largest wildlife protection protests in its history.”

Supplementary snippets ….

Coincidentally The Wildlife Trusts have just published their Badger Vaccination Progress Report 2011 – 13 and this in conjunction with the findings of the IEP puts another metaphoric nail in the coffin of the ‘cull’ argument?

Natural England appear to be failing the nation’s wildlife and special places? They dropped the case against the Walshaw Estate and made an astonishing agreement which effectively funds grouse moor management. Thankfully the RSPB have subsequently taken the case to Europe.  Their ‘Briefings’ of October 2012 and March 2014 can be found here and here.

Why is it that NE appear to fail to ensure robust science where badger culling is pushed through?

In 1997 their predecessors (English Nature) were described in a WWF Report as “A Muzzled Watchdog”, they morphed to become Natural England and one wonders what of the future for them with an ever changing climate around government attitude to environmmental conservation and wildlife?


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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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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