Killing badgers doesn't reduce TB in cattle
YOU asked for readers' views on the badger cull.
This is my view. This trial cull has been undertaken despite massive public opposition and against all scientific advice.
We were initially led to believe that the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire were to establish whether the free-shooting of badgers at night with high-powered rifles was safe, humane and whether the required number of animals could be killed within the designated time of six weeks.
It was not, we were told, an exercise to see whether killing badgers would reduce bovine TB (bTB) in cattle. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial led by Lord Krebs had already established that killing badgers would make no meaningful contribution to the reduction of bTB in cattle.
After six weeks it was clear that it was not humane (carcasses have been found to indicate this) and that the number killed fell far short of the requisite number. As to safety, there will always be the possibility of an accident when high-powered rifles are being used.
When the Government realised its trial had failed, Owen Paterson eloquently blamed the badgers for "moving the goal posts". Clearly he has very little understanding of badger biology and social structure.
Last year the cull was postponed because there were too many badgers and now, it would seem, there are too few. It is the Government moving the goal posts.
When free-shooting failed to reach the target figures the Government resorted to cage-trapping and then shooting. It is actually cheaper to trap and vaccinate than to trap and kill and then dispose of the body. Since the bodies have been incinerated, instead of being tested for bTB and checked for signs of injury and suffering, there is no way of knowing how many badgers suffered unnecessarily and how many were healthy animals, completely free of bTB.
The Government chose not to test for TB, one can only assume because it knows, from the previous RBCT, that the vast majority of badgers do not carry TB, and of the small minority that do most are not infectious. There has been no transparency or accountability.
The extensions to the two pilot culls have been granted by English Nature, despite its own chief scientist having been reported as stating that the cull should be stopped immediately. One can only conclude that the culls have been extended in order to get rid of badgers, not for any scientific purpose.
There has been a lot of misinformation put out by the Government but it is clear that this killing will do little to help farmers. The Government should be vigorously pursuing the option of cattle vaccination, which is now available, and badger vaccination. In my view, this whole exercise has been a complete shambles and the Government is acting like a dictatorship.