The Badger is the newsletter of BadgerWatch (Ireland)
Newsletter no. 29. Spring 2004.
Affiliated to: The Irish Wildlife Trust, 21, Northumberland Rd. Dublin 4.
The National Federation of Badger Groups, 2b Inworth St. London SW11 3EP
National Co-ordinator, Bernadette Barrett, 5, Tyrone Avenue, Waterford. R.o.I.
T/F: 00 353 ++(0)51-373876. E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.badgerwatch.ie
Badger culling suspended for increasing TB
National Federation of Badger Groups. (U.K.) 04/03/04
Reactive Badger culling has increased the rate of bovine TB in cattle by 27%, animal health and welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw revealed today. He announced the immediate suspension of reactive culling in the so-called Krebs experiment because there was enough data to show that it increases the disease in cattle, rather than reducing it.
“We congratulate the Minister for acting decisively on the information currently available,” said Dr. King, chief executive of the NFBGs. These extraordinary results confirm the warnings that I and other scientists have been giving for years.
It means that farmers who have been illegally killing badgers have actually made their situation worse rather than better.”
Dr. King added: “This announcement is a massive blow to the credibility of the farming unions. They have consistently called for badger culling outside the existing experimental areas. It is imperative that the farming unions stop making ill-advised calls for badger culling and work with us and the veterinary profession to implement effective schemes to control the problem of TB transmission between cattle. There is already clear evidence that cattle are already infectious with bovine TB long before the skin test identifies the problem. This serious infection route must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The so-called Krebs experiment began in1998 to test whether culling badgers reduces TB in cattle. Three experimental ‘treatments’ are being tested, each in ten areas of ten square kilometres: reactive culling, in which badgers are killed on and around farms where a TB outbreak occurs: proactive culling, in which as many badgers as possible are killed throughout the entire area; and no culling.
“The reactive culling data confirms that there is a bovine TB link between badgers and cattle; that comes as no surprise. But the data shows you cannot break the link by killing badgers,” said Dr. King “Instead, reactive culling makes the situation much worse and even suggests that cattle are giving the disease to previously uninfected badgers. We therefore have to look elsewhere for a solution to this disease.”
There are no data yet to show whether proactive badger culling has any effect on controlling TB in cattle, Dr. King said: it is vital that the Minister acts now to invest the money saved by cancelling reactive culling in research into alternative TB control strategies. Tighter movement restrictions and improved TB testing regimes using the gamma interferon blood test for cattle, for example are both currently underfunded. It is vital that the Minister acts now to ensure that he has a range of options to choose from when the Krebs experiment finally ends.”
Minister Joe Walsh replies to Parliamentary Questions.
Trevor Sargent, Leader of the Green Party tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions associated with the issue of badgers and bovine TB in cattle.
Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and food, the numbers of badgers killed under the cull which was agreed by the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness;
· If a pre-eradication survey was conducted in the relevant areas;
· If not, the way in which the Government can verify that (local) populations have not been reduced below the 20% figure specified by the Berne Convention:
· And, if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): “The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, (PPF) in addition to existing arrangements relating to wildlife, provided that a proactive approach would be adopted in each district veterinary office area by using 75 dedicated departmental farm relief service personnel to remove all sources of infection in the 20% of the country which yields some 50% of TB reactors.”
“To this end my Department has established a wildlife unit that will oversee all wildlife removal operations here. Staff have been recruited and located in those areas identified as being hotspot areas. New computer programmes have been developed and placed in all offices to facilitate the new arrangements”.
“The number of badgers examined in 2001 was below target due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak. The number of badgers removed last year (2002) was significantly higher. Last year’s figures have yet to be validated”. Mr Sargent requested specifically, the number of badgers killed in the PPF cull. Minister Walsh avoided the question completely. We are now aware of course that the PPF was not actually in operation (and still is not) at the time of the Minister’s reply . Why not simply disclose this fact? The number of badgers culled in ’01 and ’02 is not relevant to the question.
“It is estimated from this and other research that the level of TB in badgers is at least 20%. The national population of badgers is estimated at 200,000. Badger removals are undertaken in accordance with licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. One of the conditions of such licences is that badger populations are not reduced below 20%”. To determine the level of (20%) infection in badgers, DAFRD must also kill the other 80% of badgers who were perfectly healthy and not infected by bovine TB. That is the problem.
The above is how a Minister might side steps direct questions from Dail Deputies. DAFRD has never revealed how it removes 80% of a local badger population and guarantees retention of the required 20% in the absence of any pre-culling surveys. Who is responsible for post-snaring surveys which might verify the actual existence of the required percentage? Someone in DAFRD must have the figures to back up the claim. Sorry Minister, we just do not buy this one.
Badger trappers in the research areas work 11 nights in two working weeks. If a trapper is of the opinion he has not removed all badgers he has the authority to set snares for a further 11 nights. Very few local badger populations survive four working weeks of continuous snaring operations.
BadgerWatch had queried the suspension of research snaring operations during the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. DAFRD’s reply was that snaring in research areas resumed briefly in May but concluded 31st May as it was now approaching the ‘closed season’ on snaring ( June, July and August).
It was likely now, BadgerWatch was told that the Four-Areas Project would resume and some element of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness cull would get under way, possibly in September '01. Still seeking answers on the PPF cull, BadgerWatch was informed last year (‘03) that the cull would be fully implemented in 2004.This appeared to give the impression that at least some aspect of the cull might be operating.
BadgerWatch recently requested details of the PPF from the Department of the Environment under the Freedom of Information Acts (1997). It was informed that the ‘official’ date of commencement was 1st January 2004 and to quote the Department, “ It now appears that no licence requests under this programme have been received by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to date”. We can only conclude that problems within DAFRD are halting the go-ahead for the cull.
Why is BadgerWatch so interested in this particular cull? To begin with there has been much difficulty and confusion in getting clear information on it. The PPF cull promises to be one of the most lethal culls ever to be undertaken by the Irish Government with unacceptably high badger casualties.
BadgerWatch has seen maps of the areas involved. They were given to us by DAFRD. These cull areas consist of sizeable pockets of land scattered throughout the entire country. One can see at a glance that it includes practically the entire county of Monaghan. When this four-year ‘project’ has achieved its dubious ambition one can safely assume that 80% of the badgers killed will be non-infected animals.
In the temporary absence of its implementation, it comes as little consolation to friends of the badger that DAFRD managed to slaughter the grand total of 6,115 badgers in 2002 (refer to chart on page). We believe the figures for 2003, which have yet to be validated, to be in the region 5,500. In the 1960’s, cattle TB was reduced from 17% to 3% without any culling strategies. In the last twenty years Ireland has culled 45,000 badgers and possibly as many more have been killed illegally on Irish farms and still the infection rate of circa 3% in cattle remains static since the mid 60s. Killing badgers has changed nothing. Surely there’s a lesson to be learned here.
Badger Casualty Numbers 1995 – 2002
231. Mr. Trevor Sargent (Green party) asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of badgers that were killed in each of the 26 counties for each of the years from 1995 through to 2003. [5097/04] Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh) provided the following table which sets out the information requested for the years 1995-2002. The figures for 2003 are not yet available.
While the total number of badgers ‘taken out’ by DAFRD from 1995-2002 amounts to approximately 27,736. Government figures for the previous decade, 1985-1994 show that 12,600 badgers were culled making a total of 40,336 casualties. This does not include the figures for 2003 which have yet to be published.
Coursing banned in Northern Ireland.
Coursing and the other forms of hare hunting has been banned in Northern Ireland for the next twelve months. The announcement came from Angela Smith, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment in Northern Ireland who stated “It’s clear that the activities which a ban would prevent, put the lives of Irish hares at risk.”
Angela Smith stated “It has been established over a number of years that Irish hare numbers are low.” The move comes (14/10/03) two months after the Under-Secretary of State turned down the application from Ballymena and Dungannon and District Coursing Club.
Explaining her reasons for refusing the permit she said, “the Irish hare is in danger. It is low in number and the Department of the Environment has published a species action plan, which among its objectives the doubling of the Irish hare population by 2010. Although I accept that the dogs are muzzled during coursing, there is evidence that deaths among the coursed hares can arise from causes other than being bitten. Anything that puts the lives of the Irish hare at risk is inconsistent with the policy objectives of the species action.”
The Minister also expressed her concern about the practice of importing hares, including Irish hares, netted in the Republic of Ireland for coursing events in Northern Ireland. She said “I understand that the club may have imported sufficient hares from the Republic of Ireland to allow the planned coursing event to proceed.
The Irish hare is a sub-species endemic to the island Of Ireland. Both parts of the island share a responsibility for doing what they can to help the Irish hare population to recover. I therefore intend to take up with my Ministerial counterpart in the Irish Government the practice of allowing hares to be netted in the South for export to Northern Ireland for coursing.
It is worth noting that Ballymena and Dungannon were able to ahead with their Coursing meeting following an invite to hold it in……… Cavan, in the Republic of Ireland. Enough said!
At last BadgerWatch (Ireland) has its website up and running. A debt of gratitude is owed to Andrew Kelly (normally associated with the Irish Seal Sanctuary at Garristown) for doing a really good job. For those who can, please visit the site and sign our guestbook. We welcome your comments and suggestions. The website can be found at www.badgerwatch.ie
BadgerWatch regularly responds to requests from schools and individual pupils for information when a wildlife project is getting under way. We are always happy to help with supplying posters and fact sheets. It is important that future generations have had an introduction to Ireland’s wildlife. Last year one such class in the Sacred Heart Secondary School in Westport took on the task of collecting 300 anti-badger snaring signatures which they send to the Minister for Agriculture. Posters, photographs and badger information were needed for their Animal Welfare Display. The pupils then decided on a fund-raising project and raffled a teddybear. A cheque for €140 was then donated to BadgerWatch. To teacher, Suzanne McNeela and her girls, a heartfelt thank- you from us.
Gunmen to be kept out of State Nature Parks and Reserves
BadgerWatch heartily congratulates Minister for Environment and Local Government, Martin Cullen, for refusing the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) permission to shoot on state lands. Not content with the extent of their present hunting grounds, they sought to extend activities into state lands. These lands are the last remaining sanctuaries where our wildlife (or whats left of it) can be afforded full protection. To add to that, there’s also the question of public safety.
The NARGC defines its role as being one of countryside management and conservation . This is totally misleading to average Sean Citizen as nothing could be further from the truth. Habitat management etc. sounds very impressive. The real motive, one suspects is, that such habitats will yield a continuous supply of quarry for another shooting season. NARGC is no longer quite open about publishing the number of creatures killed annually by its members. It just did not make good reading so perhaps their hired public relations’ advisors may have had a twitter of wit to point out the urgency for discretion on this one.
Part of the NARGC’s ‘annual bag’ returns (non-protected animals and birds killed by them) usually includes the killing of about 30,000 foxes, likely to have been ‘taken’ on weekend driven shoots or night-time lamping/dazzling sessions. Mink, crow, magpie and pigeon are also listed among the victims, all in the name of conservation, naturally. We note that ‘feral cats’ have also joined the list
On the NARGC website, the listing of feral cats among its prey is cause for concern. Cats owned by any rural dwellers may often roam beyond the confines of home, after all they are the natural hunters and by law have the right to roam. Beyond the limited information given, that they are trapped in cages normally used for trapping mink, NARGC has not disclosed the specific circumstances that (a) requires the taking of cats (feral or otherwise). (b) the purpose for their removal (c) who might normally request the removal and (d) what happens to the cats after trapping by the NARGC i.e. how are they ‘disposed of’.
How does one actually identify a cat as being feral? when it leaves the confines of its own backyard or is seen within forty feet of the NARGC’s pheasent-rearing pens? If indeed there exists a problem with ‘feral cats’ one would expect that problem merit attention from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is known that groups or individuals (not associated with the NARGC) have been engaged in (feral) cat-control services aimed at removing the animals from specific premises such as hotels and factories. Where cats are concerned, there exists a large grey area surrounding their classification and their protection which needs to be addressed.
Below is a copy of a press release submitted some time ago by the NARGC’s public relations company which is PR Helme of Serpentine Ave., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REGIONAL GAME COUNCILS (NARGC) CALLS FOR MINISTER TO DISCUSS REPORT INTO SHOOTING ON STATE LANDS
Des Crofton, Director of the NARGC, is calling on Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Martin Cullen, to discuss the findings from a report commissioned jointly by the previous Government, under the direction of Ms Sile DeValera TD and the NARGC.
The report, which is of a scientific nature, examined the Government’s policy of ‘No Shooting’ on lands purchased by the State and investigated why the policy exists at all. The report by an independent Scientific Working Group was completed in June 2002 and submitted to the Government. However, its findings are yet to be made public or indeed discussed with the NARGC; the body which lobbied for and co-funded the establishment of the Scientific Working Group.
While Duchas has claimed that hunting on State lands is damaging from a conservation perspective, Mr Crofton denies this is the case. "For decades the hunting community has been shooting on what are now State lands and if we had damaged them in any way, they simply wouldn’t be valuable and if they weren’t valuable, the State wouldn’t have bought them. Furthermore as an organisation, the NARGC is both a shooting and conservation body and it would go against our fundamental beliefs to damage a conservation area. Additionally, why are other groups allowed access to State lands and we are not? The only answer can be that the Government does not want us shooting at all."
Mr Crofton believes that the ‘No Shooting’ policy was introduced by the Government purely as an administrative convenience and has nothing whatsoever to do with the NARGC potentially damaging conservation areas. "To my mind, the fact that Minister Cullen has just issued a statement saying the ‘No Shooting’ policy was introduced from a safety perspective I believe proves my point that the existing policy is based on convenience rather than any objective evaluation. In fact, this is the first time in 30 years that safety has ever been cited as an excuse," continues Mr Crofton.
Game shooters are the only people who pay a State license fee for the right to pursue their sporting activity and the NARGC believes that it has a right to pursue its sport on State lands, as applies to other interest groups such as the bird watchers and hill walkers who make no payment to the State. However, Mr Crofton also believes that he, and his members, will accept and adhere to any recommendations made by a truly independent scientific appraisal.
Opinions expressed in ‘An Broc’ are not necessarily those of BadgerWatch (Ireland)