Badger cull going 'to plan' despite latest arrests
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The Government's chief scientific adviser maintained yesterday that the badger cull was "going to plan" in Somerset and Gloucestershire, but would not reveal how many badgers had been shot or whether nightly protests were having an impact.
Prof Ian Boyd also defended a decision to test only 120 of the badgers killed to see how 'humanely' they were shot, and repeated the Government line that the pilot badger cull was necessary to investigate the impact on TB in cattle.
Prof Boyd's comments came hours after another night of conflict in the fields and woods of Gloucestershire and on the day the RSPCA petition calling for the badger cull to be stopped reached 300,000 signatories.
Four more people were arrested near Redmarley, in the north-west corner of Gloucestershire. They were detained just after 3am yesterday on suspicion of theft and aggravated trespass. Two 46-year-old women – one from Evesham and one from Cheltenham – were arrested, along with a 34-year-old woman from Gloucester and a 23-year-old man from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The 34-year-old woman was also arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon.
It is the second set of arrests in five days in Gloucestershire – four anti-cull protesters were detained last Friday night by police in the county.
The controversial pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire aim to tackle tuberculosis in cattle by killing around 5,000 badgers over six weeks.
The NFU confirmed that the west Somerset cull began a fortnight ago and opponents believe the shooting in west Gloucestershire started last week.
The culls aim to assess if culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely, with plans to introduce the scheme more widely in areas that are hotspots for TB in cattle.
Farmers and the Government insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds. But opponents say culling the protected animal will have only a small effect on infection rates in cattle and will lead to badgers suffering. Yesterday, head of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, said the cull was "misguided" and there was strong public opinion against it. The RSPCA-backed petition is easily the biggest-ever on the Government's website.
"We're not surprised that so many have flocked to sign their name in opposition to this misguided cull and it shows the strength of public opinion against it," said Mr Grant. "Huge numbers of badgers are dying – probably in their thousands – and yet science has shown that this will make little difference to bovine TB in cattle. We also have grave concerns about how they are being killed and whether this is humane.
"The cattle deserve a long-term sustainable solution to this devastating disease, which we believe is vaccination and better biosecurity – and the badgers do not deserve to be sacrificed," he added.
But Prof Boyd, Defra's chief scientific adviser, said there was no alternative. "I agree with people who say something needs to be done about TB in cattle, but the fact is that an operational cattle vaccine is ten years away and we cannot do that faster," he said. "We have a serious problem we have to deal with, and with the tools we have now.
"The cull is going to plan, but I cannot say any more than that about numbers for operational reasons."
Prof Boyd said independent monitors of the cull would examine 60 of the badgers that were trapped before they were shot, and 60 that were shot while 'running free'.
"The purpose of this is to gain an estimation of how quickly the animal died," he said. "The badgers won't be tested for TB, as it's extraordinarily difficult to detect tuberculosis in a dead badger."