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Defra looks at gassing TB badger setts

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 07, 2013

By TINA ROWE

badger
Comments (13)

tina.rowe@b-nm.co.uk

The Government has commissioned research into gassing TB-infected badgers in their sets – more than a year after a West Country farmer said it was the only practical way of culling the animals.

The six-week cull to test the effectiveness of trap-shooting and free shooting of badgers in the fight against bovine TB ends in West Somerset this week.

Unconfirmed reports early in the process suggested that only three or four badgers a night were being killed, compared with the 50 per night needed to meet the area's official target of more than 2,000.

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The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs stipulated as part of its licence that 70 per cent of the badgers in the cull zone must be killed. A similar cull began a week later in Gloucestershire and ends in a week's time.

The aim was to kill a total of 5,000 badgers.

Anti-cull campaigners have been attempting to disrupt the work and the RSPCA is amongst those organisations which have condemned the method.

They said animals could be injured, not killed by the marksmen and then crawl away to die. They also said that it was wrong to target infected and uninfected animals.

Dairy farmer and entrepreneur Derek Mead, from Weston-super-Mare, warned last year that the pilot cull was "deeply flawed". He said then: "It won't target diseased badgers and will show farmers in a very bad light indeed."

He co-founded the Badger Welfare Association, dedicated to maintaining a healthy, balanced badger population, and campaigned for funding to build on the work of Okehampton farmer Bryan Hill, who has expertise in identifying infected setts.

He said an unofficial experiment in Devon in 2005 had shown that gassing diseased setts reduced bovine TB cases by 90 per cent, far greater than the 16 per cent reduction found in a ten-year culling trial that ended in 2007.

The gassing of badgers using cyanide was banned 30 years ago because it was considered inhumane, but many farmers believe carbon monoxide poisoning would be a painless way of killing animals in those setts that have been infected with tuberculosis.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union has welcomed the decision by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, to commission research into gassing and other "alternative sett-based culling methods".

He said the "holy grail" for cattle farmers, who lost 28,000 animals because of bovine TB in England last year, was a culling method that allowed them to focus on diseased setts.

He said that gassing would be easier than shooting because it would happen during the day when badgers were in their setts.

However, he admitted that the public would still need to be persuaded that gassing was humane.

Queen guitarist and the high-profile leader of the fight against the trial cull, Brian May, tweeted: "Incredible that the NFU was saying they didn't want to EXTERMINATE badgers. And now they want to gas the setts ??! Unbelievable."

Defra has said that: "It is not possible to say at this stage if or when gassing is likely to be a realistic or humane method of culling."

One concern about the method is that the gas might not fully reach every part of a sett, and some animals might survive but be left brain-damaged by the gas.

Defra said the research was "predominantly desk-based" and no animals or gas were being used.

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13 comments

  • mmjames  |  October 08 2013, 3:07PM

    Are there any media, marketing or business studies students or even investigative journalists out there who care about Zoonotic Tuberculosis and stopping the spread of this disease and who also want to enhance their CVs / University Statements? They could achieve both results by running their own local press campaigns FOR the control of badgers. More than 20 young British men and women infected .....official figures obtained by the Times. Those figures are likely the very tip of the iceberg due to the way the stats are NOT updated when the diagnosis of 'human' Tuberculosis is changed to that of Zoonotic Tuberculosis. Change of diagnosis occurs when the 'usual' 3 pronged chemo fails to work and is tweaked to even more powerful and dangerous drugs. Anyone who's been faffing around with infected badgers, whether 'rescuing' bodies or vaccinating live ones is now in danger. Tuberculosis is a slow burn disease and can present as an abscess anywhere in or on the body. Time will prove this to be correct.

    |   -12
  • Clued-Up  |  October 08 2013, 2:55PM

    The pro-cullers have lost 2 props to their support network already - DEFRA ministers Beynon and Heath have been kicked out in the recent government reshuffle. I've read Paterson will be sacked by Christmas - but there's no telling whether that political rumour is well-based. The pro-cullers (eg the NFU Council leadership and others) have been humiliated by their failure to make their pet project "work"; naturally they'll try to find some way of reviving it. They have to be stopped. We on the anti-cull side need to do more to publicise the stupidity and horror of the badger cull to ordinary members of the public through the "general interest" and local web sites they browse and through the very local press (eg the "town" and free online newspapers). Are there any media, marketing or business studies students out there who' care about badgers and stopping cruelty and who also want to enhance their CVs / University Statements? They could achieve both results by running their own local press campaigns against the badger cull. Finding local / community press outlets is easy through Google and / or directory searches (eg BRAD). These online newspapers and web sites generally WELCOME contributions. The badger sites (including http://tinyurl.com/97msu9c ) provide a wealth of source material. Students wanting to use their work to enhance their CVs etc need to keep a record of HOW they've planned their campaigns, WHY they chose the press / community outlets they did and HOW they've measured their success (measures could include number of articles published, reader responses, etc). I very much hope some students (non-students too!) will decide to run with this idea. The badgers need your support!

    |   13
  • mmjames  |  October 07 2013, 11:46PM

    ssimples Monday, October 07 2013, 11:16PM ................ It would be interesting to have an answer to our questions, but don't hold you breath - I've asked more than once as I believe you have too, Ssimples.

    |   -16
  • ssimples  |  October 07 2013, 11:16PM

    @fischadler Are you saying that if farmers in Gloucestershire, Devon, Cornwall, Hereford and Worcester farmed like they have done in Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire, it is possible that farmers in the South West would be a lot better off today?

    |   -12
  • susie2010  |  October 07 2013, 9:48PM

    These people (I think we all know who I mean) clearly take pleasure in death and pain. Fortunately I don't think there are so many of them... You see the same individuals on here saying the same old tired and discredited things over and over again, they're not worth wasting time on. These 'pilot' culls have failed in every possible way. They have been ineffective, inhumane and insanely expensive. They could have been designed to ensure maximum possible perturbation. They have ensured a nosedive in public sympathy for farmers, even though the NFU, who are the drivers of the whole sick and sordid mess, only actually represent 18% of farmers. We all know this. Defra, the NFU and the government know this. The public know this. We also know that blatant attempts are already being made to falsify the facts. But an election is coming up soon. The gassing, or attempted gassing, of innocent wildlife is NOT a vote-winner. And the NFU have nowhere else to go...

    |   21
  • mmjames  |  October 07 2013, 7:12PM

    fischadler Monday, October 07 2013, 5:13PM It is not the public who are biased, we have read and understand the science ..................... Now that you've read and MISunderstood the science perhaps you'd like to look at these maps http://tinyurl.com/pngfrb3 and explain to us all why and in what way Farming Practice is getting worse, spreading outwards over England and Wales as shown by these maps.

    |   -14
  • fischadler  |  October 07 2013, 5:13PM

    @ssimples It is not the public who are biased, we have read and understand the science. It is the farmers who are blaming their failings on badgers to distract attention from their lack of bio security measures and poor animal welfare. I have seen the recent film of a Somerset cattle market where bio security measures were bein totally disregarded by 90% of staff and farmers. Perhaps they are more rigourous in Cumbria.

    |   24
  • ssimples  |  October 07 2013, 4:10PM

    @twigcat and @stormkettle You refer to looking after livestock properly and cleaning up bad farming practices. Cumbria is a large county which supports a very large cattle population. In fact cattle density is a number of times greater than in Gloucestershire. Yet TB levels in Cumbria are tiny compared to those in Devon and Gloucestershire. If the problem is largely due to not looking after livestock properly and bad practices which is causing badgers to be victimized, how would you suggest solving the problem? Perhaps the government should arrange coach trips for farmers in Devon and Gloucestershire to see how farmers look after their cattle in Cumbria? On the other hand perhaps this blinkered perspective of the problem was why Dunnet in 1986 gave some insight into his frustration in a ministerial review which was submitted to the Rt Hon Michael Jopling, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. See below. [START OF QUOTE] The controversies associated with the problem of bovine tuberculosis and badgers have been a fertile area for media attention. We feel bound to say, after reading a great many press cuttings on this subject going back over ten years, that the media have concentrated largely on the emotive aspects of the policy and have done little to further any balanced discussion. This has led in turn to the public gaining a biased view of the problem and the ways of trying to solve it. [END OF QUOTE]

    |   -19
  • twigcat  |  October 07 2013, 11:56AM

    Another ''costly distraction''. The Government is insane to commission this research. I can tell you the results now. Gassing badger setts with carbon monoxide will prove to be outrageously expensive, inhumane, inefficient and will absolutely not be tolerated by the general public. Invest now in vaccination programmes and cleaning up the bad practices of the dairy/cattle industries.

    |   30
  • advanced1  |  October 07 2013, 11:26AM

    So Defra and the nfu are interested in gassing badgers, along with the 16% of British farmers which are actually members of the nfu. A collection of bloodsports enthusiasts in general, along with the rest of the nfu membership which largely consists of estates that breed pheasants to shoot. Credit the rest of us with not having been born yesterday please. We do not want the needless killing to continue on their behalf.

    |   28

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