Badger cull monitoring under fire
A FRACTION of the badgers culled in Somerset will be examined to see if they were killed humanely.
Just 240 badgers out of thousands culled will have their gunshot wounds looked at. Opponents of the cull say looking at a “tiny fraction” of the overall cull would not prove that the rest were being killed humanely. The badger culls taking place in Somerest and Gloucestershire are aimed at killing around 5,000 badgers over a six-week period in the hope of reducing bovine TB.
Adrian Coward, chair of the Somerset Badger Group said: “The whole purpose of the pilot cull is to see if it’s possible to kill badgers humanely. There appears to be a reduction in free shooting and an increase in cage trapping. Whichever the means used a sample size of less than three per cent is an abysmal amount. And the sample will not be tested for bovine TB.
“Only around one in seven badgers have bovine TB and just a small percentage of these are infectious. Six out of seven are healthy animals.
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“Cage trapped animals could just as easily be vaccinated. The cost of the vaccine per badger is £14.50, compared to the cost of disposal through incineration of around £30 per animal.
“There is a huge amount of anger across the public. People are coming from all over the country to walk with us on badger patrols who have never protested in their lives.”
Defra says the figure was set after seeking advice from statistical experts. The badgers will be examined to see if they were killed by more than one shot. Defra claims it has developed robust methods to monitor the humaneness of the badger cull, approved by an independent expert panel.
Vet Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International has called the cull “a shambles from the outset”. Mr Jones said: “The vast majority of shooting appears to be taking place without any monitoring whatsoever, only a fraction of badger carcasses are being collected for examination, the extreme suffering of wounded badgers who will die slowly underground is unmeasurable and nobody outside of DEFRA’s internal team has been allowed to examine or question its methods.”
A Care for the Wild spokesman has also criticised the government for putting too few officials on the ground to oversee the culls.
The number of badgers shot so far has not been made available by Defra. Opponents say the cull is inhumane and will not stop bovine TB but the government and many dairy farmers believe it is the only way to stop the spread of the disease which has led to the mass slaughter of cattle.