Press Statement 11 Jan 2005


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 DAFRD. 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 mish-mash 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, as usual, remain permanent badger-free zones. Badger removal operations are repeated annually if there’s evidence of renewed 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, Food and Rural Development (DAFRD 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.

Bernadette Barrett
Co-ordinator, BadgerWatch (Ireland)
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