The Badger is the newsletter of BadgerWatch (Ireland)
National co-ordinator: Bernadette Barrett, 5, Tyrone
Avenue. Waterford, Rep of Ireland.
|The Four Areas report.
Published January 2005
As expected, no great surprises contained in the long awaited report, which was peer reviewed and published in The Journal for Preventive Veterinary Medicine.
The project design consisted of a Report or Control area where all badgers were culled (pro-active culling). A Buffer area separated the Report area from the Reference Area. Again, all badgers were killed (pro-active culling) in the Buffer Area, while badgers were removed in the Reference Area, only in response to a BTB breakdown in herds (Reactive culling).
2,360 badgers were 'taken' from 1,214 sq.km 'project' locations across Counties, Cork, Monaghan, Kilkenny and Donegal. Snaring began in 1997 for a five year period and was completed in 2002. The purpose was to copper-fasten the findings of its predecessor, the East Offaly Project. In the five previous years, 1990-1996, a separate culling exercise saw almost 800 badgers removed from the four areas prior to the 'Project' itself. Earlier claims that cattle TB levels dropped by 90% after badger removal has really not been clearly demonstrated in the paper.
The 4 Areas involved in this project together with its predecessor, the infamous East Offaly project will remain permanent badger-free zones. This is an undisputed fact. BadgerWatch is aware that the areas will be visited annually and snares set again if there's evidence of renewed badger activity.
In yet another disturbing situation, Badgerwatch recalls that as far back as 1997, Selected Papers published by TB Investigation Unit UCD wrote (with reference to the 4 Areas project) "Snaring was proceeded with if any badger activity was evident. In most cases the snaring period was over 11 nights. In all cases the snaring protocol details that all snares (note, snares, not restraining devices!!) be checked early in the morning for badgers. Occasionally, if the field operator (trapper) was of the opinion that all of the badgers associated with a sett had not been removed at the end of this period, the snares were left in place for a further 11 nights". Under its obligation to the Bern Convention, this Country has given assurances that local populations would not be reduces below 20%. It would now appear that such assurances are certainly not being adhered to. Also, It can be near midday when trappers have completed the check of all snares. We have witnessed this. Thus, badgers are held captive for many hours of daylight in a state of high risk from both animals and humans.
Are we any wiser for all the killing? Yes, we now know for certain that slaughtering badgers on a massive scale, which has operating in this country for more than twenty years has made little enough impact on the cattle TB levels.
In recent times, BadgerWatch has been regularly contacted by badger-friendly farm-owners from many parts of the country. They are concerned by the high level of badger removal in their areas. Preserving individual colonies of badgers, which have survived for generations on such farms is now proving to be extremely difficult. Keeping the badger trappers off their land will not save them. Badger tracks are easily identified and snares need only be set on adjacent property, along extending tracks where badgers exit their own safe farmland. We know this is happening!
MINISTER COUGHLAN COMMENTS ON THE FOUR AREA BADGER STUDY
Ms Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Agriculture and Food, commented today on the report on the Four Area Badger Study that was presented to her recently by the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis (CVERA), UCD.
Ms Coughlan said that this scientific study, which was funded by her Department, was carried out in four different geographical regions in Ireland (Cork, Monaghan, Donegal and Kilkenny) over the 1997-2002 period. Its objective was to critically examine the role of badgers as a source of T.B. infection in cattle in Ireland. In essence, the study compared the incidence of T.B. in cattle in matched areas where in removal areas badgers were removed in a proactive manner and in reference areas, where badger disturbance was kept to a minimum. It also compared disease trends in the five years preceding the study with those observed during the study period.
The Minister said that as anticipated the study revealed that the removal of badgers resulted in a very significant decline in the incidence of TB in the cattle herd in the removal areas both by comparison with the reference areas and between the pre-study and the study period, particularly in the final two years of the latter. For example, taking the four areas together, the total number of confirmed herd restrictions in the removal areas for the study period (222 cases) was almost 60% lower than for the pre study period (537 cases). For the reference areas, there was little difference compared with the national trend in the incidence of the disease in the two periods.
Minister Coughlan said that this outcome confirmed the earlier findings of the East Offaly Project that infected badgers were an important source of tuberculosis and a significant constraint to eradication of the disease in cattle in Ireland. However, she pointed out that these results must be seen in the context of the existing comprehensive range of measures already in place to control the spread of the disease. These include mandatory annual testing for all cattle in the national herd, the early removal of reactors, a wildlife programme, continued monitoring of cattle movements through the CMMS, prosecutions in respect of breaches of the various animal disease, welfare and identification regulations and the imposition of penalties where farmers fail to comply with animal disease and other regulations.
Ms Coughlan confirmed that the scheme operated by her Department already contained a significant wildlife dimension aimed at removing badgers in adjacent areas where they are implicated in tuberculosis breakdowns. This strategy, which had been refined in recent years, was implemented under licence from and in co-operation with the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Her Department was also involved in a research project, in co-operation with UCD, on the development of a vaccine against tuberculosis in badgers that, if successfully developed, could facilitate the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. However, any vaccine will not be available in the immediate future. The Department also maintained close contacts with others engaged in TB eradication and research at international level.
Concluding, Minister Coughlan said that it will be necessary in the medium term to continue with the existing comprehensive control and eradication measures which, she said, had brought about positive results in recent years in terms of reduced incidence of the disease. For example, the number of reactors removed had fallen in each of the last six years, from some 45,000 in 1998 to 28, 000 last year, and an estimated 25,000 this year. She was confident that this progress can be maintained into the future with the continued operation of the existing measures and the on-going co-operation of farmers and all involved in the livestock industry.
10 January 2005
Press Statement 11 Jan 2005
Response from Badgerwatch (Irl)
According to Agriculture Minister M. Coughlan, "The removal of badgers resulted in a very significant decline in the incidence of TB in the cattle herd". No surprises here for friends of the badger. This is exactly what Min. Coughlan's Department has been saying for almost two decades. In that period almost 60,000 Irish badgers have been legally killed by Dept of Agric and Food. At least 80% of these animals (48,000) were healthy and TB-free. In this most recent 'project' 2,360 badgers have been sacrificed in the name of scientific research.
The exact numbers of badgers illegally killed on Irish farms can but be guessed at. The future of our badgers and their rapid decline in this Country has now reached critical proportions.
Initially BadgerWatch felt certain that Minister Coughlan had been the recipient of the long awaited hard scientific evidence of badger involvement. Had the mode of transmission of TB from badger to cattle been finally demonstrated for once and for all? No, it was still 'more of the same'. Another complicated presentation of mathematical figures and projections has been served up. Our badgers have been tried, convicted and executed on the grounds of mere circumstantial evidence.
Killing badgers is not the long-term solution to the Country's cattle TB problem. It is likely badgers are themselves victims of the disease, having picked it up from foraging in infected cattle dung. To begin with, the present skin test used to 'diagnose' the disease is not 100% accurate. Healthy animals fail it while infected animals (false negatives) are missed and left to pass on infection. Perhaps the Minister might give serious consideration to the return of the compulsory pre-movement test however politically unsavoury it may be. Qualified personnel tell us it would lead to a 10% drop in present BTB levels.
Post project areas will remain permanent badger-free zones. Badger removal operations are repeated annually if there's evidence of re-newed badger activity. The Irish Government insists that it is adhering to Bern Convention requests that 20% badgers are left behind. This is incorrect. Badger trappers lay down multi-strand wire snares at a targeted sett over a two-week period. Their working manual allows them to continue snaring for a further two-week period if the entire sett has not been cleared of badgers. The badger is held until it is shot the following morning. This activity continues right through the breeding season with nursing sows been removed. Dependent cubs are left to die of starvation underground.
Unlike the U.K, there is no beneficial closed season on snaring in Ireland. The Department of Agriculture and Food will continue to slaughter badgers for the foreseeable future, using the 'Scientific Research' flag of convenience. This will guarantee it a safe passage through any serious objections likely to come its way. It remains the futile course that it is, having by-passed the real problem.
Co-ordinator, BadgerWatch (Ireland)
|National Federation of Badger Groups
NEWS RELEASE: Sunday 9 January 2005
Badger extermination "not viable" say Irish researchers
Badger extermination is not a viable way to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle, researchers in Ireland have concluded. In the first major paper  on the Republic of Ireland's Four Areas badger culling trial, published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, the researchers conclude: "Although feasible, we acknowledge that widespread badger removal is not a viable strategy for the long-term control of tuberculosis in the Irish cattle population".
Dr Elaine King, chief executive for the National Federation of Badger Groups, says: "This trial suggests that badger culling only reduces TB in cattle if every single badger is exterminated. Even if you exclude the moral and political implications of such a strategy, the Irish study does not show whether the effect is large enough to warrant the massive economic cost of the slaughter."
The NFBG contacted the paper's correspondence author, statistician Dr David Williams, to establish why the researchers had concluded that culling was "feasible" but "not viable". He said: "It would be technically possible to try and do it if it were legal or desirable or moral. But it's neither legal  nor morally justified , or anything like that, especially when there are alternatives." 
The trial involved exterminating 2,360 badgers across 1,214 square kilometres in Cork, Donegal, Kilkenny and Monaghan between 1997 and 2002. This is similar to the "proactive" badger culling strategy currently being implemented in the so-called Krebs' experiment in Britain, but badgers have been virtually eradicated from the study areas in Ireland .
TB in cattle from these "removal" areas was compared to TB in cattle from "reference" areas - a weakened equivalent of a scientific control . The researchers report that the chance of a herd of cattle not having a TB outbreak for the next five years was between "seven per cent (Donegal) and 24 per cent (Kilkenny) higher in removal over reference areas."
Dr King concludes: "This paper fails to answer the key question that every cattle farmer in Britain will be asking: what was the reduction in bovine TB? Eighteen months ago, the Irish researchers told Radio 4 that badger culling reduced TB in cattle by an average of 80 per cent . That claim is simply not supported by this paper. In fact, it's impossible to determine the actual reduction in TB that has been achieved in Ireland by badger culling.
"We have been advised that the Republic of Ireland has slaughtered more than half its badgers over the last ten years, reducing the population to less than 100,000 badgers . Badger densities are significantly lower in Ireland compared to Britain. Yet in 2002, the last year for which data are available, 6.5 per cent of Irish cattle herds were under TB restriction. In Britain, which has three times more badgers than Ireland, 3.6 per cent of herds are under movement restriction .
"Ireland's futile badger slaughter has simply confirmed that badger culling will never be a solution to the problem of bovine TB. This makes it vital that Defra focuses all its energies on controlling the movement of infected livestock and removing all infected cattle by implementing the more accurate gamma interferon TB test."
CONTACT: Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive, NFBG
Tel: 020 7228 6444 or 07976 153389 NFBG web site: www.badger.org.uk
WELL DESERVED AWARD FOR THE NFBG
The National Federation for Badger Groups has won an national award for its contribution towards fighting wildlife crime. The 'Partner of the Year Award' was presented by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW)
Dr. Elaine King, Chief Executive of the NFBG, said the award recognised the hard work of thousands of volunteers who value and protect their wildlife. "This is a credit to more than 80 local badger groups who work in partnership with the police, RSPCA and other organisations to protect badgers from illegal persecution".
PAW currently comprises 117 members. It is guided by a Steering Group, jointly chaired by Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom of North Wales Police and Martin Brasher, Head of Defra's Global Wildlife Division.
BadgerWatch (Ire) extends congratulations to all for this well deserved recognition.
|NEW BRANCH F0RMED IN CLARE
For members in the Clare area, you now have your own BadgerWatch Branch which was recently formed. The first task will be to create locally, an awareness of the badger and to highlight the many difficulties facing the animal and its future. Apart from the problems of snaring, both legal and illegal, one of the most serious threats to broc is the vast amount of precious habitat which is being eroded as towns and cities expand. The ever increasing need for more motorways and bypasses also take their toll.
Below is the Clare Badger Watch banner which was carried in St. Patrick's Day parade. The Group will also present an exhibition on animal issues in Ireland at the local library and focus will be drawn to the badger and the formation of Clare Badger Watch.
Contact: Mrs Kate Brown, Clare Animal Welfare,
2, Bank Place,
065-6829388 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org / Website: http://caw.ennis.ie
Gun Clubs Denied access to State Lands.
The National Associations of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) has been unsuccessful in their most recent bid to extend their hunting activities on to our National Parks. Was it that the gun clubs failed to understand the previous Environment Minister, Martin Cullen when he gave a clear decision not to allow hunting and shooting on state lands?
A recent response to BadgerWatch, from the Dept. of Environment states that "the Minister has asked me to assure you, that he has no plans to change the current policy of not allowing hunting on the properties managed by the National Parks and wildlife Service of his Department". BadgerWatch commends Minister Dick Roche on this decision.
How often in the past has a visit to the country been destroyed by the sound of recreational gunfire? Knowing that the precious life of a small creature has just been brought to an abrupt and needless end brings little joy to many people. Our National Parks are the last bastion of full protection for our ever-persecuted wildlife. That this vestige of peace and security might be shattered by the unwelcome activities of gunmen has always been a source of grave concern to those involved with wildlife protection.
Views expressed in 'An Broc' are not necessarily those of Badgerwatch (Ireland)