An Broc (The Badger) is the newsletter of Badgerwatch (Ireland)

Winter 2016

5, Tyrone Avenue, Waterford.   



Farmers take precedence over badgers being cruelly killed:  Agriculture Minister.

2 Dec 2016 — "In the order of priority, the livelihood of farmers and their herds [of beef and dairy cows] takes precedence" - Agriculture Minister Michael Creed crassly explaining why a cruel cull of thousands of supposedly protected badgers is continuing across Ireland. Minister Creed was responding to a Dail Question from Clare Daly TD who, wearing a "Not Guilty" badger t-shirt, told him that there is no conclusive evidence that badgers are responsible for spreading TB to cattle.

During Wednesday's exchange, she highlighted the cruelty of the cull which involves the snaring and killing of around 6,000 badgers each year (an estimated 120,000 killed since 1984), with victims including nursing female badgers whose dependent cubs subsequently starve to death underground when the mothers are destroyed by Department operatives.

She went on to challenge the Minister on the length of time it is taking to replace the killing with a promised vaccination alternative. "Rabies was eliminated from European foxes using baited vaccine many years ago," she stated. "The idea that we have been discussing a vaccine programme for badgers for 25 years is quite shocking." She urged the Minister to    "move mountains" to end the cull because the threatened badger population "doesn't have the luxury of waiting".

Bernie Barrett of Badger Watch Ireland has described how badgers suffer under the Department's snaring scheme as follows: "The method of capture is a barbaric wire snare which holds the helpless badger in excruciating pain until it is dispatched by gunshot. That’s provided the animal has not agonisingly strangled itself beforehand."

According to the Irish Wildlife Trust, "badgers can die over extended periods struggling in these hideous devices while their young starve underground. Not only is it barbaric and unethical, recent findings have shown it to be ineffective in the war on bovine TB. Nobody has ever counted badgers accurately in this country and while it has always been assumed that they are common animals, this can no longer be taken for granted."




Please appeal to the Agriculture Minister to show compassion and end the cruel badger snaring scheme. Remind the Minister that the badger is a protected species in Ireland and that the Animal Health and Welfare Act, for which he is responsible, clearly states: "A person shall not do, or fail to do, anything or cause or permit anything to be done to an animal that causes unnecessary suffering to, or endanger the health or welfare of an animal".

Tell him that research has shown that "badger culling apparently has the capacity to increase badger-to-badger transmission of infection, potentially undermining anticipated reductions in badger-to-cattle transmission."

Minister Michael Creed + 353 (0)1-607 2000 loCall 1890-200510
Minister for Agriculture,  Kildare St.  Dublin 2
Department of Agriculture
Please write to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Remind them that the Wildlife Act, for which they are responsible, lists the badger as a protected species. Demand that they stop licensing the snaring and killing of thousands of badgers as part of a cruel and discredited TB eradication scheme.

Minister Heather Humphreys
Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs
23 Kildare Street
Dublin 2

Tel: +353 (0)1 631 3802 or +353 (0)1 631 3800
Leave a comment on Facebook -
Tweet to: @HHumphreysFG

Director, Licensing Unit
National Parks and Wildlife Service
7 Ely Place, Dublin 2




The Fate of the Badger    New 30th  Anniversary edition
 Author;Dr. Richard Meyer

We, in Badgerwatch  thank Dr. Richard for remembering us with a copy of the above.  Our own original copy has being doing the rounds for many years.  Not exactly bed-time reading.  But facts are facts and it’s amazing how little is  generally known of  the  plight and  the persecution still suffered by the badger both here and the U.K.

Here, in Ireland, Badgerwatch is now in it’s 26th year of campaigning on behalf of the animal. What  have we achieved?  Nothing but years of anger, frustration and downright despair. Our politicians ever mindful that Ireland is an agricultural country with a powerful  farming lobby, went for the soft option. Kill the badgers.
It  doesn’t  matter that the mode of transmission remains unknown, also, the badgers contribution to infecting  the national herd with BTB remains more controversial than ever.   6,000 badgers meet their fate annually on the business end of a wire snare. We can  but guess the  number of dependent  cubs orphaned yearly.  They are not  spared as  snaring continues throughout  the breeding season.   Our badger population is under  serious threat even though the species  supposedly enjoys both national  and international protection. A repeat Badger and Habitat survey is urgently required. More than two decades have lapsed since Dr. Chris Smal’s  survey (the one and only) was completed and published in 1995.   Updates of the vaccine programme  continue, meanwhile there’s no let-up on the pogrom waged on our ever-decreasing badger populations.

And, the campaigns of The Irish Wildlife Trust, The Irish Council Against Blood-sports (ICABS) and Badgerwatch  continue highlighting abuses against the animal.



Don’t stand so close to me! – New research shows that Irish badgers avoid farmyards and cattle.

Sometimes farmers find  difficulty  sleeping at nights. Random, worrying thoughts drift into our heads as we doze into sleep. Are badgers prowling around the farmyard? Are they sniffing the cattle? Is TB being transmitted?

New research will allow us sleep easier at nights. A project lead by district conservation officer Enda Mullen, with TCD and the Dept of Agriculture, spent three years tracking badgers in the Wicklow countryside. Forty badgers from 12 social groups had radio collars placed around their necks. Then enthuastiac NPWS staff and volunteers from TCD plotted the 12,500 movements of the badgers as they wandered through the countryside.

We usually find TB in cattle in the lungs. The conventional wisdom states that badgers transmit TB to cattle via aerosol – directly breathing close to a cow. A badger might be lured into a farmyard by the presence of spilled grain, and come in contact with livestock housed in sheds. But this study proved otherwise. Badgers tended to avoid farmyards – and particularly farmyards with cattle.

  If they visited farmyards at all, they tended to visit equestrian farmyards and disused farmyards.  But most badgers kept away even from these. A single individual badger (which the researchers christened Violet) seemed to like a trip to the horses, but most other badgers kept well away from all livestock, and even were scared of visiting disused farmyards.

A second study undertaken by Declan O Mahony in Northern Ireland confirmed that badgers avoid cattle. Declan works with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast, and his approach was slightly different.  He placed proximity collars on 58 cattle and 11 badgers in a bTB hotspot in Northern Ireland. If the badgers and cattle came within 2 meters of each other (enough distance to share a breath), the collars would emit a pulse. This would be plotted via GPS. In addition, motion sensor cameras were placed all over the farmyards to video anything which moved. The results were amazing. There were over 350,000 interactions between cattle and cattle. There were 11,774 interactions between badger and badger. Clearly, you hang out with your own species. And there were no interactions between cattle and badgers. Zero.
So is BTB being transmitted by badgers? And if so, how? The researchers looked at water troughs. But badgers and cattle did not use water troughs concurrently. In fact, badgers rarely used water troughs at all .So the researchers turned their attention to the farmyards. They recorded 500,000 hours of video at farmyards in a mammoth undertaking, and analysed the results. The visiting animals recorded mostly were feral cats, some of which were in poor condition.  Farm cats play an important role in rodent control, but can also be carriers of TB, and any animal in poor condition is more susceptible to disease. Mice and rats were also seen on camera, and very rarely an individual badger (perhaps a friend of Violets?) visited a meal shed for a few minutes.

 Most other badgers kept away – and all badgers avoided the cattle sheds. Cattle are large, sometimes dangerous, and often scarily frisky. It seems that the badgers have known this all along, and are keeping well away from them.  Instead of scape-goating the badger, we need to increase bio security measures on our feed sheds. And thanks to this hard work and wonderful research, we can  settle down to sweet dreams and sleep without worries.

By Donna Mullen, Co Meath



Department optimistic  with trial results.
 Darragh McCullough  (Independent  News)    

Early results from a massive BTB vaccine trial covering thousands of farms could bring the mass culling of a protected  species to an end.  Department of Agriculture officials hope this will be an alternative to the annual cull of 6,200 badgers.   “Culling isn’t sustainable because if we keep going the badger population would definitely  become extinct in parts of Ireland. So we can’t be doing this in ten years time but hopefully we won’t have to if we can show that the vaccine is at least as good as a targeted cull” said the Department’s  head of wildlife, James O’ Keeffe.

“We don’t need to eradicate the badger to eradicate TB  but all the scientific studies  here have shown that we have to address the disease reservoir in wildlife such as badgers” said the senior vet in the Department’s Wildlife Unit, Margaret Good.  “We have to get the level of the disease in  badgers down to a threshold.  In some populations it can be as high as 45%”. The first of the vaccine trials stem from Longford where the method has been on test across a third of the county for the last four years.

Additional research is being carried out in Galway, north Cork, Monaghan, Tipperary and Waterford in a huge trial that covers 5% of Irish farmland.

The areas were selected because they were “insulated” by natural or man-made boundries such as rivers or roads that allowed the researchers monitor the same badger populations over  subsequent years.
With an efficacy of 60%,  the vaccine was able to maintain TB rates at levels similar to areas that were subjected to a targeted cull.

The positive results are in stark contrast to multi-million live vaccine trials in Wales where a 36% increase in TB related  cattle slaughtering has been recorded during the twelve months up to the end of February 2016.  A fifth year of the trial was suspended due to global shortage of the BCG vaccine.
Welsh authorities spent close to £1,000 per vaccinated badger, but Mr. O’Keeffe maintains costs here are less than €300 per badger, which is similar to the cost of culling.
“The problem in Wales is that  they didn’t   cull the infected badgers first.  The vaccine won’t be a TB problem but it will prevent it escalating”   said Mr. James O’Keeffe.

Despite debate continuing in Britain as to whether culling badgers helps reducing the incidence if TB in the cattle population, Irish experts are convinced that the targeted culls have had a big impact on the level of disease in herds. The 30% of badgers in East Offaly and the Four subsequent Areas resulted in 37-72% decrease in TB reactors. Tb levels  have fallen here from 160,000 reactors in 1966 to close  to 15,000 last year. This equates to an incidence rate  in herds of 0.24%  and less than 0.35% in cows.
Ms Good believes that the TB is not as big an issue in the deer population and that it’s being driven by badgers.  “But deer populations and therefore their ranges are increasing and we need to tackle the problem in deer too”  she added. The TB eradication  programme  costs  are close to €53m  annually, including staff costs and farmer levies of €5m.   The Irish TB research will be presented to the World Buiatrics Congress of vets being held in Dublin.  The World Association for Buiatrics 2016 (World Buiatrics Congress) took place in Dublin, from the 3rd to 8th July 2016.




Bovine TB not passed on through direct contact with badgers,

research shows Darragh McCullough  (Independent  News)   Trial 

Contact comes through contaminated pasture and dung, with significant implications for farming practices. Badgers and cattle never came into close contact during a new field study examining how tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted between the animals.

Most TB in cattle is contracted from other cattle but some infections come from badgers. The new research indicates that the disease is not passed on by direct contact, but through contaminated pasture and dung, with potentially significant implications for farm practices such as slurry spreading.
It also suggests why TB in cattle is so hard to control even when cattle and badgers are culled, as the bacteria can survive in fields for months. Eradicating TB will require addressing this risk, the new research implies.
TB is a serious problem for farmers, with 36,000 infected cattle slaughtered in Britain in 2015 at a cost to the taxpayer of about £100m. One key element of the government’s control programme, England’s controversial badger cull, is set to expand.

But the UK’s foremost experts say this “flies in the face of scientific evidence” and that the cull is a “monstrous” waste of time and money. The new research has not changed their conclusion.
The new study, carried out on 20 farms in Cornwall, aimed to shed light on how TB is transmitted between badgers and cattle, a route estimated to be directly responsible for about 6% of herd infections. “We know badgers can give TB to cattle but we have never known how,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Zoological Society of London, who led the new research. “It is really difficult to track the movement of what is invisible - the pathogen.”

The breakthrough came thanks to new technology: a GPS collar small enough to be worn by badgers. The researchers tracked more than 400 cattle when they were in the territories of 100 badgers, with the total number of tracked days coming to more than 8,000.   “We detected nothing [in way of interactions],” said Woodroffe. Just once in 65,000 observations did a badger get within 10 metres of a cow and they preferred to be 50m away. In contrast, they are thought to need to be within 1.5m of a cow to directly transmit TB. “It looks most likely that the badgers are avoiding the cattle,” she said, although close contact has been seen on rare occasion in the past.

“Badger-to-cattle and cattle-to-badger transmission is therefore most likely happening through the environment,” said Woodroffe. “That raises the possibility that some cattle to cattle transmission is happening through the environment. That is an important issue as TB isn’t seriously managed as though the environment is infectious.”

When TB is detected in a herd, the infected cattle are isolated and sent for slaughter. “But the pasture they are grazing and the slurry or manure they contributed to isn’t treated as if it is contaminated. That can still be squirted all over the environment, as slurry is spread widely,” she said, adding that this might explain how closed herds can be infected from neighbouring farms.
The researchers, whose study was funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and is published in Ecology Letters are now sampling the fields to see exactly where the TB is harboured.

This will help farmers understand which biosecurity measures - such as fencing off badger latrines or raising water troughs - actually work.

“There is this mass of measures that farmers are supposed to do, but no-one knows if they really work,” said Woodroffe. “In trying to eradicate a disease, you are trying to nail every transmission route.”
Prof Alastair MacMillan veterinary adviser for Humane Society International/UK, said: “The suggestion by some that TB is spread by frequent nose-to-nose contact between badgers and cattle has now been completely dismissed.”

“It is much more likely that contamination by cattle of fields and yards by [TB bacteria] is the cause of repeated TB herd breakdowns,” said MacMillan, a former Defra scientist. “It’s clear that the government must divert the substantial resources being used needlessly to cull badgers and instead improve farmer education and biosecurity on farms.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Tighter cattle controls and good biosecurity are a key part of our comprehensive strategy to beat bovine TB, and a number of measures are in place to prevent the spread of infection.” “These include frequent testing and rapid removal of infected cattle, pre- and post-movement testing and wildlife proofing of high risk units,” she said. “To reduce the risk of cattle to cattle transmission from contaminated environment, farmers are required to carry out cleaning and disinfection and to keep cattle out of fields grazed by [infected cattle] for two months after their removal. There are, on infected farms also rules about the use of manure and slurry. on farms.”

Experts call on new prime minister Theresa May to halt ‘failed’ policy, calling it ‘risky, costly, and inhumane’.

Woodroffe  said the new research has not changed her opinion that the current badger cull should be halted, but she said it could explain why only a slow reduction in TB was seen in earlier, scientific culls: “The feeling has always been with badgers that you kill an infected badger and the infection is gone, but it’s not.”She warned: “The benefits of badger culling accrue really slowly but the harmful effects [such as spreading TB more widely] happen really fast.”




*Time stands still as a minority enjoy savage season.

Fiona O’Connell

Sunday Independent   25/10/16

Much has changed since I moved to the country; from   floods to financial droughts but time seems to stand still when it comes to some aspects of rural life, as I am reminded on this last summer in September, I’m referring not to the cycle of seasons but tradition.

For while we have happily rid ourselves of many century-old customs, the defining aspects of the remaining ones is that they are blood sports that hurt vulnerable animals for the profit and pleasure of a minority, who nevertheless demand that they are preserved and paid for by the rest of us.
And they are, The Irish Greyhound Board will reportedly receive over €14m of taxpayers' money this year - an increase of over 1million euro on the previous year.

Despite a recent statement from The Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, which represents those involved in greyhound racing and hare coursing, which suggested the industry has rising debts and plummeting attendance and sponsorship.

Yet all over Ireland right now, hares are being held in cages so that these wild creatures can be turned into the hare coursing equivalent of circus animals, as they are 'trained' to run around wire-enclosed fields with giant dogs in savage pursuit. For yet another nearly six-month long coursing season will be under way before next week's Sunday Independent is in your hands.

As always, some hares will be maimed or killed. Others will will die from trauma and injuries after their release. Which was probably what happened to the hare that I found at the side of a country road last year, the only one that I have seen in all my years here. The beautiful creature was not yet decomposed, though a few ugly flies were hovering. Spain and Portugal are the only other countries in the world where hare coursing is still legal.

The parallels are interesting. Just as the rights of a minority to have its idea of fun matter more than the protection due the endangered Irish hare, so too do Spain's animal welfare laws allow animals to be mistreated for the benefit of blood fiestas. Although the latest poll suggest 70% of Spanish citizens oppose bull-fighting with thousands taking to the streets of Madrid earlier this month to  demand an end  to this centuries-old tradition – those in power support this blood-sport of a small but influential group.

As   reflected by the Portuguese president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Borroso who overturned  Portugal’s 70 year ban on ‘death bullfighting’ when he was the country’s prime minister.  While back home, our Government – along with all the major political parties – denied us the democratic right last summer to decide whether to ban hare coursing.  Perhaps proving that power is itself a perverse pleasure – which sadly is with us for all time.



Terrorising the hares
Sunday Independent, 11/09/2016

Sir - Pope Francis, during the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, called for environmental destruction to be classified as a sin. Without getting into any complex theological arguments about the nature of sin or papal infallibility, I do believe he has a point. And given his admiration for the life of St Francis of Assisi, I'd like to think he'd agree with me when I use the word sin to describe the action of 114 TDs last June in voting to allow live hare coursing in Ireland.

By doing so, they said yes to hares being snatched from the Irish countryside to be used as bait for pairs of hyped-up greyhounds that strike, maul, and toss them about at so-called sporting venues. To my mind, that is ecological and environmental terrorism.

Even hares that escape physically unhurt can die afterwards of stress-related ailments brought on by the contrived chase and the weeks of unnatural captivity preceding it.
If it's not sinful to subject a gentle creature like the hare to a practice where it has to twist and turn and dodge to avoid injury or death, and all for human amusement, then it ought to be… as should the political cowardice that enables hare coursing to survive in Ireland this far into the 21st Century.

John Fitzgerald





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