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'No justification' for 'misguided' badger cull to continue, say RSPCA

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 20, 2014

Comments (18)

Animals welfare campaigners have claimed there is “no justification” for the “misguided” badger cull to continue, as they urged supporters to oppose extending the killing to new areas.

Two pilot culls have already been carried out in Somerset and Gloucestershire as part of the Government’s strategy to combat rising rates of bovine TB which can be spread from badgers to cattle.

But the policy has met with enormous opposition with campaigners claiming culling is ineffective and inhumane and that efforts should focus on vaccination and farm measures to tackle the disease.

Devon and Cornwall are among nine Much of the South West is counties regarded as a hotspot for the disease which resulted in 28,000 cattle being slaughtered in 2012.

The RSPCA said the “farcical and costly badger cull could very soon be extended across the country” and urged its supporters to lobby Prime Minister David Cameron.

David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs and campaigns, said: “There is no justification to continue with these misguided plans, let alone extend them. We care about both cattle and badgers but science has shown the cull is not the answer to bovine TB in cattle, and the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year were a catalogue of errors from start to finish.

“In total 1,861 badgers have already been needlessly killed since August. We would urge anyone who does not want more such deaths to contact their MP urging then to vote against the expansion of the cull and urge their councillors to stop local authority land from being used in any cull.”

Last month, Natural England, which has to authorise the culls, asked potential applicants for new licences to begin preparing their cases.

Opponents believe the Government is seeking an “escape plan” after the pilots proved costly and failed to hit kill targets, despite extensions to the time period.

Farmers, who paid for the actual culling itself, are estimated to have spent around £1.49 million with a further £2.66 million spent on policing.

Just over £3 million was attributed to costs at Natural England, the Food and Environment Research Agency and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Anti-cull protesters also believe their case has been strengthened after it emerged the number of herds of cattle infected with TB had been significantly overestimated after a computer error.

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  • morgan_sweet  |  February 23 2014, 7:49PM

    I've read all the comments and have come to the considered conclusion that the recent badger cull by shooting is wrong. What we need is a sustained campaign by farmers with badgers on their land to gas all sets to eliminate the badger population in order to control the vermin that the badger has now become due to it being a protected animal.

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  • Clued-Up  |  February 21 2014, 2:19PM

    @barney2 Re "it is very possible that the badgers own immune system is fighting off the disease" - they do; I've read that most of the 15% badgers which come down with TB recover and only 1.7% eventually develop the last stages of TB and become infectious. We know from human experience BEFORE there were any effective drug treatments for TB that a very large percentage of those coming down with the disease recovered from it and were untroubled by TB for the rest of their lives. The people who died from TB were often those who were stressed or ill from other causes (malnutrition, overwork, etc).

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  • barney2  |  February 21 2014, 1:50PM

    So you cannot compare England and Wales, but you can compare the UK with the USA, New Zealand and European Country's ? Paterson does it all the time. Paterson made sure that will do not know how many badgers are infected, he refused to allow autopsy's to be carried out on the culled badgers or even allow an independent organisation to do it free of charge, wonder why ?. I expected some reports of sick badgers having to be killed by those vaccinating them but so far nothing. I also expected Paterson to produce some obviously sick badgers from the cull but no. My logical, common sense sort of brain is telling me that it is very possible that the badgers own immune system is fighting off the disease.

  • barryterry-2  |  February 21 2014, 12:48AM

    @ Jake-Blake . You have really given us something to think about having seen Owen Paterson reporting to parliament that he had seen the badgers that had had killed he could tell that they were in a terrible state and full of disease . but you tell me that the licenced welsh badger vaccinators who have seen more badgers than all the vets and politicians put together cant possibly tell a sick badger from a healthy one . Owen Paterson didn't lie to parliament did he ?

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  • Jake_Blake  |  February 20 2014, 10:59PM

    "The vaccinators on the Welsh programme trapped 1200 badgers and didn't find ANY visibly ill ones, reasonably good evidence for believing that NONE were TB infectious ." No it's not, actually it's quite ridiculous and a dangerous view to take. There's no reason to believe that any infected animal could not be infectious. Let us remember, we cull cattle just for coming into contact with the bacterium, that's how dangerous and serious this disease is. Developing clinical signs is a rarity even early stages of spread of disease within the cow aren't that common hence why the meat from most of the cattle slaughtered is perfectly safe to enter the food chain. Even taking this extreme culling strategy on cattle we see nationally less than 1.7% being slaughtered per year whereas in the badger species we have at any one moment 1.7% excreting excessive quantities of the bacteria, the so called super-excreters. This should therefore in no way be considered low. For some farms this means that they will essentially always be under threat from TB due to the statistical likelihood that they will always have a super-excreter somewhere on their land. The whole argument between vaccination and culling and what was found and what was found depends on the detail, and the application of methods. A badger showing clinical signs recognisable to humans is likely to have been noticed by badgers first and kicked out. Now vaccination was aiming for active family groups, not the lonesome individuals (and hence harder to see their activity) dying a painful death. The problem with trapping is that it's the more dominant members of the group that get in. With vaccination you trap, you inject, you mark and release, and guess what, that released badger's back again at the peanuts the next day. The sicker badgers not clinically sick, but feeling the debilitating effects of TB have much less of a chance in order to become trapped, and you can forget about finding clinically sick. With the RBCT in which the culling was run over a longer time-scale than vaccination, you trap, you cull, you remove. This means you're not finding the same greedy badger consecutively therefore increasing your chances of getting sicker badgers and a truer reflection on the health status of the badger population. As for Wales V England, one needs to look at the numbers of setts for each country. England has doubled where Wales has remained relatively the same. And before you start; I know it's not as simple as multiplying number of setts by x and coming up with the number of badgers there are now. But this is a very clear indication of badger activities. And what one can clearly draw in comparison between these two countries is that one has seen a hell of a lot more perturbation than the other, and this is reflected in the statistics. When one considers that the IAA is too small to make a noticeable national impact, we're essentially looking at two countries with identical TB testing regimes, but huge differences in behaviours in the local infected badger population.

  • chascat  |  February 20 2014, 7:58PM

    Free2opine, yes I do agree with what you've said, my point is that Patsy's spouting this bull based on what the cull contractors have told him allegedly, no corpses have been tested for bTB. Nobody from the pro cull lobby has challenged this as being inaccurate as they were happy to accept his lies if it supported their argument to kill. Nobody knows whether a badger has bTB unless a post mortem is carried out, but there would be obvious visible signs of super excreters of which Patsy claims there were hundreds, this again is untrue and not one was found in a bTB hotspot in Wales. Please don't stereotype me as a stupid bunny hugger, I am not, I am listening to the science, you may a complete disregard for all the leading scientists who have called this cull madness, but I do not.

  • Clued-Up  |  February 20 2014, 7:21PM

    @Free2opine You appear to have wrongly jumped to the conclusion I'm suggesting the vaccinators for the Welsh vaccination programme can diagnose WHICH ailments a sickly, emaciated badger with a poor coat might suffer from. That's NOT what I said. I do say the trained vaccinators would be able to identify any badgers in the very poor state they'd be in if they were in the super excretor last stages of TB. Vets would then have euthanased these animals and carried out post-mortem tests for TB. The vaccinators on the Welsh programme trapped 1200 badgers and didn't find ANY visibly ill ones, reasonably good evidence for believing that NONE were TB infectious. By inference, the badger population of Wales is fairly free from bTB. By further inference, the amount of cattle bTB suffered formally in Wales isn't anything to do with the mainly TB free Welsh badgers. According to what appears to be reputable, objective information in the public domain, the only badgers which are infectious are those in the last stages of TB (the super excretors) and they're only a very small percentage of the total badger population (the 1.7% is widely quoted). I disagree with you that the badgers rescued from the Somerset Levels look ill.

  • Free2opine  |  February 20 2014, 3:27PM

    ps I suggest you take a look at the badgers rescued from the Somerset Levels, they looked tatty and emaciated. They were just wet and starving. You can NOT tell,by just looking at them. http://tinyurl.com/qebd3ds

  • Free2opine  |  February 20 2014, 3:23PM

    Clued-up you are incorrect yet again. I am not going into the why's and wherefore's because you are one of those people who THINK they know it all, when in fact, you don't. Any diseased animal will be spreading many thousand mils of bacterium (super excreters') every time they urinate. They will not necessarily LOOK sick. Also, where did you get the figure of 1.7%!?? You can NOT tell whether a badger is sick, by LOOKING at it!!!!!!!!!! Would you be able to tell whether a person in the street/shop/cafe had TB, just by looking at them. If you can, perhaps you could tell the medical professionals........I am sure they could make use of you!

  • Clued-Up  |  February 20 2014, 3:12PM

    @free2opine The only badgers which are super excretors (around 1.7% badger population) are those in the last stages of TB ... these would be obviously sick animals. The trained vaccinators would be able to see how sick such badgers were (they'd be emaciated and have tatty coats) and would then call up qualified vets to determine whether such sick badgers should be put down. Of the 1200 badgers trapped in Wales, NONE were visibly ill and therefore NONE were infectious super excretors.