An Broc (The Badger) is the newsletter of Badgerwatch
Co-ordinator: Bernadette Barrett, 5, Tyrone Avenue, Lismore Lawn, Waterford. Irish Republic.
+353 (0) 51-373876.
Abandoned by the Bern Convention.
Stabbed in the back by National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Executed by the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The ultimate fate of our badgers
Protected by an massive array of legislation, Appendix lll of the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat ) and Irish Wildlife Act 1976 (amended) 2000, one would be forgiven for thinking that the protection afforded to our native badger was absolute, in short, untouchable. How wrong can we be? According to figures accumulated from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, (DAFM) thousands of badgers are captured and subsequently killed every year in a cruel multi-strand wire snare. To date, approximately 100,000 badgers have met their fate in Department of Agriculture snares. The trapping licence is issued to the Department by none other than the National Parks and Wildlife Service, (NPWS). Ironically, the NPWS is the office charged with the protection and conservation of the badger.
Unlike the fox, badgers do not repopulate easily. Badger cubs have a high mortality rate with 50% of cubs failing to survive their first year. Welfare problems arise when a snared badger leaves orphaned and dependent cubs underground. Along with fearing for her own life she also has to suffer the thwarting of her maternal instinct to attend and suckle her young. There is no accounting for the number of dependent cubs who have died underground and will continue to die under these horrific circumstances. Theirs is a lingering death from hypothermia and starvation. The Dept. of Agriculture and the Wildlife Service have ignored this annual and largely unseen side of the badger pogrom. This has to be accepted as a deliberate act of cruelty on their part.
The need for a closed season has been raised in the past by the Bern Committee. No action was taken. There is a solution but it never been enforced. A blind eye has been cast on the problem for far too long. Why has the NPWS failed to intervene and insist on a nation-wide closed season for the duration of the animal’s most vulnerable time; its breeding period? The DAFM’s response is a closed period on snaring operates in ‘new’ trapping areas from January–March, thus reducing the risk of snaring nursing sows. Outside the ‘new’ areas, its business as usual. The licence allows trappers to return time and time again to check setts for further evidence of activity. Any sign of renewed activity results in snares being laid again because the instructions from DAFM is total clearance of badgers. It can safely be said the chances of finding any member of the species in old trapping areas are indeed slim if not impossible.
According to Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveny, “Targeted badger removals will continue in the medium term”. So, more badgers will die! Is there an annual fixed quota? The licence is issued specifically for scientific research. What kind of ‘research’ demands tens of thousands of dead badgers? “Field trials in badger vaccination were under way” said the Minister “and if successful, they would be incorporated in the eradication programme. The success of the vaccination programme carries no guarantee that culling will cease. In fact culling will continue alongside the vaccine trials for many years to come. This is no secret.
With the likelihood that badgers will continue to be killed, who is actually responsible for conserving the species? The Bern Convention? The NPWS? Neither, despite their respective legislative powers. Its twenty years since our one and only survey and an update is urgently required. The NPWS have been handing out the licence to eradicate badgers without question. It is time they stopped dragging their heels. Use some of the millions of Euros spent annually wiping out badgers and at least confirm their present population numbers. There is too much at stake here. Its past time to act
Parliamentary Question No.221
Field trials are also being undertaken at present, involving the vaccination of several hundred badgers over 3 to 4 years, with continuous monitoring of the population to assess the impact of the vaccine on the incidence of disease in the vaccinated and non-vaccinated control badger populations. Success in the field trials is designed to eventually lead to implementation of a vaccination strategy as part of the national TB control programme. As it will be some years before full results of the trials will be available, targeted badger removals will continue in the medium term.
Response to the above:
The rise in bTB post foot and mouth has been attributed to:
a. the suspension of TB testing during the foot and mouth crisis and
b. the considerable movement of untested cattle (mainly from high risk bTB areas) to restock regions where whole herds had been culled in a bid to get on top of foot and mouth.
So, the figures in Abernethy’s paper are evidence that industry practices (or lack of them) and cattle movement are significantly, if not wholly, to blame for the high UK bTB rates.
Consequently, to quote Abernethy’s paper in defence of any wildlife bTb intervention is either a grossly incompetent lack of understanding of the facts or a grossly malicious intention to mislead.
Following the foot and mouth crisis, DARD almost immediately implemented enhanced cattle testing and movement measures which resulted in a 50% fall in bTB in the North. No badgers have ever been culled here. Since it introduced enhanced cattle measures about a year ago, England has experienced a 13% fall in bTB slaughters (comparable to the 15% figure quoted for the South of Ireland). Wales by contrast has managed to cut bTB by a creditable 24% in the same period after embarking on a programme of enhanced cattle measures and a badger vaccination programme.There is NOTHING in any of the data to attribute the bTB trend in the South to badger culling. However there is MUCH in the data to attribute the bTB problem and its likely resolution to industry practice.
BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle
In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.
The statement was following a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 “How did the Irish badger cull play out?”
The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.
Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease.
This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent ‘success’ of killing badgers in Ireland. In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:
“Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they’ve gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast.”
Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media. Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:
“This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.
“Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?
“The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they’ve been allowed to get away with it. The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it’s very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda.”
The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.
Notes to Editors:
1) BBC Article referred to can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-22731629
2) Full BBC ruling attached or available separately on request – file name ‘BBC Response to Complaint Feb 2013 TB’
3) Independent on Sunday Article referenced was published on 13th October 2013
4) Care for the Wild International is a charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of wildlife around the world. Our mission is to rescue, protect and defend wildlife around the world by committing our resources to deliver the greatest good. You can find out more about the charity by visiting www.careforthewild.com. Registered Charity No. 288802.
5) Badger Trust promotes the conservation and welfare of badgers and the protection of their setts and habitats for the public benefit. Registered charity No.1111440
BLACK AND WHITE POLITICS; - COSTLY BADGERS
The 70 % was a compromise in order not to contravene the Berne Convention "eradicating" threatened wildlife . And on DEFRA's own data, only c. 10% would have been infected so 170 badgers, of which a mere dozen likely to have advanced TB and be "superexcretors" which Might pose a risk via an uncertain transmission route to other badgers or cows.(see www.badgersandtb.com) Obviously this wont have made the slightest difference to controlling the spread of cattle TB which has been spread amongst cattle anyway . So, a very expensive way to Not control the spread of TB, and unsustainable given that the DEFRA budget must cut £200 Million over the next 4 years.
Since even some farmers recognised "shooting free running badgers" was/ is a pretty crass idea, the idea of alternative culling such as by gassing goes back to the 1970s, but it was hydrogen cyanide, not carbon monoxide, it was inhumane since even power gassing did not permeate in lethal concentrations in diffuse setts, and it did not cure TB in the Thornbury Avon study area .. there were yearly "unconfirmed" outbreaks after gassing ended, having wiped out the badger population, but these are the 85 % of New cattle herd breakdowns usually allegedly "Due to Badgers", but in fact are merely due to skin test reactors caught so early that they do not show TB lesions or identifiable M.bovis , but they are not false positive cases, they DO have TB !
NB . The logical conclusion from all this is that: -
A. the badger contribution to cattle TB was absolutely NIL, and
B. the whole "Perturbation idea", that culls might work or might make things worse by upsetting the badger population, so that badger vaccines might be the magic bullet (cost £640 / badger in Wales) is a wonderfully insane solution to a non-existent problem.
Claims that ‘high number of badgers are sick’ undermined by Welsh research
Consistent claims by the UK government that badgers are very sick with TB and at a high risk of spreading disease to other badgers and cattle have been shot to pieces by statistics from the Welsh Government Badger Vaccination Project.
Dominic Dyer added: “When we focus on the scientific facts and not the fiction from Owen Paterson, we find that a vast majority of the badgers being killed at huge expense in Somerset and Gloucestershire are likely to be perfectly healthy and will pose no risk to cattle at all”.
BADGER CULLING PILOT TRIAL ABANDONED
Mr Owen Paterson, the Coalition and the cattle industry have wasted the lives of many hundreds of badgers and have suffered a humiliating and inevitable setback with the reported abandonment this weekend of extended badger killing in Gloucestershire .
The controversial free shooting method used departed far beyond any scientific precedent and even beyond its own original terms of reference. Cage trapping and shooting in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial lasted only 11 days, but Ministers and officials said on six occasions that six weeks would be necessary for the pilot trials. They then extended them to nine weeks in Somerset and a disgraceful 14 weeks in Gloucestershire.
Natural England is responsible for issuing the culling licences, but its board was divided when it recently decided to allow the two-month extension of the Gloucestershire culling period. This was against the advice of Prof. David Macdonald, chairman of its Science Advisory Committee and a board member.
The Badger Trust, which has been in constant communication with Natural England and Defra, eventually received the minutes of the meeting disclosed under the Environmental Information Regulations. As recently as Tuesday (November 26) the Trust was pressing for the numbers slaughtered to be revealed.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “This ill-advised cut-rate shambles has involved miscalculation of badger populations, manipulated time scales, huge expense for the taxpayer in policing costs, and the fiasco of repeatedly-missed targets. If it was not so serious it would be comical and should never have happened in the first place”. If culling is rolled out in affected areas of England next year as threatened it would have to be by the cage trapping and shooting method at up to ten times the cost to farmers.
Views expressed in An Broc may not necessarily be those of Badgerwatch (Ireland)
Badgerwatch. 5, Tyrone Avenue, Waterford.. Ireland. 051-373876.
Address 2 .......................................................……………………..
Address 3 .......................................................……………………..