Badger Cull: overview from Ama Menec Chair of TBVAC Devon wide badger vaccination
With these notes I have attempted to give a thorough overview of the two most recent badger culls, what was behind them, who were responsible and why, what its impact, (or lack of), on bTB in cattle will be and how best to tackle bovine Tuberculosis in a credible, effective and humane way. I have made them as brief as I possibly can, but this is a politically motivated and thus complex issue. I have included links within the text for additional information, but they are not essential reading. Since I began writing these notes, DEFRA have leaked they intend to roll out new badger culls in just two areas in 2014 these being the whole of Devon and Cornwall, and could quite possibly involve gassing, as they have been breeding a hundred badgers just to test this out.
- The pilot badger culls run for 4 years at each location. The labour shadow farming minister promised members of the farming community and members of the NFU that any pilot culls already started by this present government would be completed under Labour after the next general election if they gain power.
- Around 80% of the British public are against the badger culls. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2013/12/03/poll-should-the-badger-cull-come-to-shropshire/ and https://www.hsi.org/world/united_kingdom/news/releases/2013/10/badger_cull_failure_poll_101613.html . The national government e-petition against the badger culls had the highest number of signatures of any government e-petition ever. https://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Anti-badger-cull-petition-gets-250-000-signatures/story-19292589-detail/story.html?fb_action_ids=484660451610224&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582#axzz2osrVfEJ7
- The pilot badger culls are not about bovine TB. None of the badgers killed will be tested for bovine TB and their bodies will be cremated to remove all evidence.
- The pilot badger culls turn all our environmental laws on their head; wildlife crime unit officers agreed in conversation with me that it makes an ass of the law.
- David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Owen Paterson among others in the cabinet all belong to fox hunts and partake of other ‘blood sports’. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2458431/Fox-hunting-ban-relaxed.html and https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/uk-weather-conservative-energy-minister-2965147 and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2312299/The-squirrel-killing-Minister-Wildlife-Environment-Secretary-Owen-Paterson-shows-photo-proudly-holding-dead-greys-hanging-traps–boasts-They-wont-that.html
- David Cameron’s hunt was recently successfully prosecuted by the RSPCA for illegal hunting with dogs. As a result he raised questions in the house and a complaint to the charities commission about the RSPCA’s right to carry out such legal proceedings. The complaint was rejected by the charities commission. Since then David Cameron has been on a crusade to silence lobby groups and charities, and to remove the protected species status of badgers and to repeal the hunting with dogs act. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/dec/17/david-cameron-hunt-convicted-rspca and https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10106692/Cameron-fox-hunt-judge-criticised-for-questioning-RSPCA.html
- The Conservative party is very closely tied to, and reliant on, the pro hunting pressure group Countryside Alliance: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2529288/Hold-vote-hunting-ban-ll-desert-Tories-told.html
- Devonhas two major pro badger cull activists:
1. Richard Haddock of Brixham, who was known as the ‘NFU Rottweiler’, and who is also a beef farmer. He has recently left the NFU because the organisation wasn’t extreme enough for him. He now wishes to become an MEP. https://www.farmersguardian.com/going-it-alone-after-20-years-at-the-nfu-but-still-determined-to-remain-a-voice-for-farmers/16144.article
2. Brian Hill in North Devon gives talks to farmers on ways to kill badgers and other wildlife and not get prosecuted for wildlife crime. He is a strong advocate of gassing badgers. He claims to be able to tell if a badger has TB just by looking at it and if a sett is ‘infected’ by how it smells. He works along side pro gassing Derek Mead and his website is: https://www.badgerwelfareassociation.org.uk/ https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/4651935.stm
- Dartmoorhas a long tradition of hunting a very wide variety of British wildlife. It is the most likely place to take part in a badger cull inDevon. Given how easy it is to get lost on Dartmoor in day light, hundreds of protestors getting into difficulties in the dark onDartmoorwill quickly become newsworthy nationally.
- Given that a minority government has been able to overturn the protected status of our native badgers, without allowing a free vote in parliament, theUKwill need far tougher environmental and wildlife protection laws in future, overseen by a non party political independent organisation.
- Natural England, presently lead by investment banker and venture capitalist Andrew Sells, (who has donated more than £111,000 to the Conservative Party in 2010-11 alone), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/16/natural-england-andrew-sells-access has shown itself to be partisan and not fit for purpose.
- Natural Englandissues the licences for both badger vaccination and for culling badgers. They give no favours to badger vaccination groups and demand new licences be applied for everyfarm or land taking part in badger vaccination. These can take up to one month to be issued. This addedbureaucracy makes running a volunteer badger vaccination scheme unnecessarily complicated; particularly when you consider how readily they issued extensions to cull companies including over the weekend, even though the remit of the cull had changed.
- The cull companies made good use of the one week delay between the end of the Somersetbadger cull and its resumption with the extension from Natural England, by getting into place cage traps and pre baiting. They knew before hand that they would be granted an extension and worked on preparing new methods of catching badgers even though this was technically illegal, the badger cull having officially ended.
- The remit of the 2 pilot badger culls was to test the humaneness of killing by shooting free running badgers. Humanness was to be established by listening for screams and other sounds of distress as the badgers died, but only 0.1% of all kills were observed by independent monitors and half of those were actually telephone interviews with individual cullers after the shooting for the night had finished.
- The uselessness of trying to shoot free running badgers became apparent within the first week, badgers having excellent hearing and being naturally flighty. So the use of cage traps was brought in even though this was not part of the purpose for the culls. At this point Natural England should have revoked the licences as the remit had changed.
- The UKs Wildlife Crime Units are understaffed and under resourced. Given the massive rise in wildlife crime, particularly noticeable against badgers, https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/essex_investigation_after_spate_of_attacks_on_badgers_1_3089250unleashed by this governments badger cull policy, the WCU are even more under resourced than usual. The WCU regularly has to fight for its own jobs and finance, largely because this Government wants to remove any and all wildlife protection laws. The WCU should have their funding secured and their place should bea mandatory part of British policing. They should also have more trained officers, both within the unit and as back up among the body of the British police force.
- The removal of the protected status of badgers will enable developers to build on green belt land, thus raising land prices. If a developer is not obliged to do an environmental audit, and does not have to build an artificial sett to re-house badgers the way is clear to just bring in the bulldozers. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/licence-to-trash-nature-campaigners-warn-of-new-scheme-that-would-allow-housebuilding-in-biodiverse-areas-8919217.html
- Similarly it is interesting to overlay the HS2 route with the governments own TB hot spot map.
- A map showing the potential correlation between hunting and TB hotspots also makes interesting reading, given the transfer of soil across pastures by huntsmen’s horses, boots and vehicles.
- The NFU only represents only 18% of British farmers. The remaining 82% have no official representation. At least 50% of the NFU’s leaders are bankers and financiers, not farmers.
- The NFU mostly represent large agribusiness.
- They are not elected by the British public and as such are an unelected quango within our British government.
- You cannot see the NFU constitution unless you are already a member of the NFU.
- Members can vote in leadership elections but it is not compulsory for the management to listen to the view of their members or take account of their vote.
- Our government have handed over the pilot badger culls to the NFU to run and oversee.
- Their principle income is through monetary services such as selling insurance. This source of revenue has been greatly knocked back by the badger cull as customers vote with their feet and have gone elsewhere for their insurance, as this is their only method of being able to express their disgust with the badger culls. This has been particularly noticeable in the market trader’s insurance part of their business, most especially farmers’ market traders who have turned away from the NFU, and who are meeting the public daily most of whom are against the badger culls.
- The NFU offices are in the same building as DEFRA and the two departments have adjoining doors.
- The NFU also has very strong links with the Countryside Alliance which like the NFU is a non elected lobby group.
- The Countryside Alliance is committed to the overthrow of the hunting with dogs ban and the protected species status of badgers https://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/campaigns-hunting?p=1 and https://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=2619
- The badger culls in 2013 started late because the NFU found it difficult to get the 70% minimum land area taking part. In an effort to recruit more land, farmers were threatened with physical violence, with having their milk quota cut and with having their feed supply terminated.
- Once the culls were underway, because the cull quota wasn’t being reached, more pressure was exerted on the remaining 30% who refused to take part to get them on board, this included trespass by cullers onto land not taking part in the badger cull just to get the numbers up.
- The majority of the cage traps used in the badger cull were supplied by the NFU, stamped with their initials; the remainder were provided by the AHVLA, who used the same staff and traps used to train badger vaccinators. https://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/29/03/2012/132178/we39ll-pay-to-cage-trap-badgers-nfu.htm
- Hundreds of these cage traps were taken out of West Somerset into North Devon at the end of theSomersetbadger cull. Sales of cage traps for badgers have since gone through the roof in the West Country, to the point where none can be bought from farmers suppliers inDevonas both they and their suppliers have sold out. Farmers have obviously realised this is the only way to successfully kill their badgers, even if it is illegal, and there have been reports of stockpiling of cage traps in North Devon in preparation for a badger cull in Devon.
- Despite already being banned as particularly inhumane, the NFU have encouraged DEFRA to explore gassing as a means of eradicating the nations badgers. The AHVLA (part of DEFRA), are presently carrying out experiments on gassing badgers. This article explains why gassing should not be used: https://leanonus.co/blog/badgers/
- These are actually individuals drawn from the ‘pest control’ wing of the hunting set Roger Warner (master of Ledbury Hunt) going for a stroll with one of his boys late last night after an incident where they attacked some people for walking on a footpath during the badger culls.
- Many are revelling in their new found freedom to kill a ‘protected species’ and have set up numerous Facebook sites such as ‘we love badger control’ where images of hunted and tortured badgers can be seen. Facebook incidentally doesn’t have any rules on showing or encouraging animal cruelty or committing or aiding wildlife crime, only rules on harassment. https://www.facebook.com/pages/We-Love-Badger-Control/1443200529240081
- One site called ‘we love fox control’ included a picture of a huntsman holding up a large dead boar badger, shot in April before the official badger cull started. It has been removed by Facebook, finally.
- So confident are they that at their immunity from prosecution for wildlife crime that they even run competitions, the prize of which is a night shooting badgers in the badger cull zones. So much for rigorous checking of culling ‘companies’. This image was from ‘We love Badger Control’ and was circulated on Twitter as well as on Facebook. DEFRA were asked about their logo being used in this competition advert and they refused to comment.
- Most cullers are drawn from the Countryside Alliance.
- Many are teenagers and do it, not for the money, but for the opportunity to play ‘war games’ in the streets of the West Country.
- Many routinely harass and film protesters and local Wounded Badger Patrollers and they especially target women.
- A host of ‘Anti-watch’ Facebook sites have sprung up where names, profile pictures, and where possible the addresses of individual protestors are posted. Members are encouraged to harass these ‘Antis’. As soon as Facebook closes down one another replaces it. These Facebook pages are run by the same people as ‘We love badger control’ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scum-watch/1437544846461781
- The cullers who shot badgers inhumanely, causing pain and suffering and not in accordance with the culling guidelines were not removed from the culling programme or reprimanded. However they were not paid for the poorly shot badgers but neither were these badgers added to the head count of culled badgers, so they died a painful, slow and unaccounted death. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOK_Nv10880
- Vaccinated badgers are entitled to a buffer zone around the land that took part in badger vaccination, but an agreed national buffer zone size has not been decided upon by DEFRA or Natural England. As a result, badger vaccination programmes had to request individual buffer zones around their farms, and in the event only one was granted by Natural England for Somerset. This buffer zone of 200 meters was breached repeatedly by the culling companies, including placing cage traps within this buffer zone and cullers trespassing onto land taking part in badger vaccination.
- Culling companies were supposed to not shoot within 50 meters of a road, public footpath or dwelling, but this was regularly flouted in both zones. I for one found myself surrounded by men with guns both sides of the country lane I was in, both groups of men were well within 50 meters of me and I could not see in the dark which way they were facing. It was quite terrifying.
- The cullers are often using military grade weaponry with high calibre bullets with an up to 2 mile trajectory. They are also using military tracer bullets, which look to the untrained eye like a firework when fired.
- A soldier was killed this year within his barracks by a stray bullet from the firing range 1Km away, with members of the public also at risk even further away at a local beach.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-21746367
- During theSomersetbadger cull dozens of non target species were shot including many owls, mostly tawny owls but also one or two barn owls too. The cullers were using animal sounds to communicate with each other in the dark, mostly using Tawny Owl calls. The RSPCA has some of these owls; most were removed before the RSPCA could collect them.
- At the same time a road sign 10’ up in the air in the Somersetbadger cull zone was peppered with 7bullet holes from a high calibre weapon.
- Around the same time West Country media reported a spate of road sign shootings across Devon stretching from West Somerset across North Devon and into North Cornwall. These articles did not mention the badger cull. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24498482 and a whole page given to West Country gun fire graffiti, the dates tallying with the start of the West Somerset badger culls has been created by an ex-military man concerned at the rise in random shootings in the UK https://gunfire-graffiti.co.uk/the-wild-west-country/
- Many anti cull protesters have experienced threats of violence, including death threats. Do not underestimate the violence and lawlessness of the pro-cull lobby.
- The culling companies intentionally trapped and shot badgers from adjacent non culling farms as a recent Freedom of Information Request for monitoring forms exposed. What is most shocking is this was intentional and was not viewed by either the cullers or by the observers as underhand. I would like to know if they had the same approach to culling vaccinated badgers as this was not mentioned in any of the compliance monitoring forms. They also set traps adjacent to the land of conservation organisations such as Nature in Art, and did not contact or warn them of their presence.https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hwWCKa4yjEk
- These same monitoring reports show that biosecurity guidelines are not always followed either. See full report Rifle 170913 17thSeptember 2013 for example, where guidance on biosecurity were not followed and the badger was also shot in the head, and not in the body as per the guidelines.
- The biosecurity of the cullers was very suspect indeed. As they moved rapidly from site to site, driving across TB infected land, no spraying of car tyres with disinfectant or any of the other essential biosecurity measures vaccinators have to adhere to were seen by wounded badger patrollers. Badgers were supposed to be shot in the body not the head, and were also supposed to be double bagged. The police were even seen helping the bagging up of badgers in a MacDonald’s car park! Here is one example of incorrect and inhumane shooting and incorrect biosecurity and bagging up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nptXiKvQTJ8More reports of incorrect and inhumane shooting of badgers can be found in the Compliance monitoring forms, of the independent monitors of the badger culls, which are available via freedom of information requests.
- It is also interesting to note that when the hire car company used in the badger cull zones was informed of the dangers of spreading bTB by the lack of biosecurity being observed on their vehicles, they pulled their vehicles out of the badger cull zones the next day.
- The cullers frequently breached the legal ‘buffer zone’ around vaccinated setts, so destroying badgers which are already protected from bovine TB.
- Central to both pilot badger culls were large shooting estates. The one in Somerset was Chargot Estate alongside Chargot woods. This shooting estate is part of a large chain of shooting estates based in Wales. At Chargot thousands of partridges are intensively raised within maize fields, (the smell was incredible, just like an intensive chicken shed). To the untrained eye you would see fields of maize with extraordinarily tall and dense hedges and excessive chicken wire all over the field gates. There are two striking things about the Chargot Estate. The first was that although this was prime badger country with hilly woodlands with badger setts there and fields of maize nearby, (which badgers love), there was NO evidence of any badger runs, neither recent or old. This points to the badgers being persecuted illegally in this area for a very long time indeed. The second was that cage traps were being stored along the inside edges of these maize fields next to the dense hedging, where they could not be seen from the road, but were near to hand to used in the nearby Chargot woods to trap and kill badgers. https://chargotshoot.co.uk/
- Violent tactics learned by cullers in the badger cull zones to threaten and intimidate protesters and monitors are now being deployed during fox hunts: https://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Hunt-monitors-say-masked-man-threw-explosive/story-20374714-detail/story.html and https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/nigel-farage-mark-bycroft-footage-2964999
·The culler sacked early in the badger cull for “Random Shooting” was never arrested or prosecuted.
·The cullers who rammed a lone woman protestor’s car were never arrested or prosecuted.
·The cullers who fired a firework at the car of a lone woman protestor, shattering her rear window screen, were never arrested or prosecuted.
- The cullers who fired over the heads of a group of Wounded Badger Patrollers who were all wearing high visibility vests and walking on a public footpath, were never arrested or prosecuted.
· The culler who was working alone, (illegal in itself), and firing towards a road using high calibre tracer bullets, and who ran off leaving live ammunition behind was arrested but not prosecuted. https://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Live-ammunition-field-badger-cull-hits-trouble/story-19888551-detail/story.html
·The cullers who beat up two Wounded Badger Patrollers and who followed them to their car and again attacked both them and their car, were never arrested or prosecuted. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/badger-cull-protester-claims-she-was-assaulted-8845164.html
·The many cullers who threw fireworks and other incendiary devices under the cars of many protesters over a number of weeks were never arrested or prosecuted. It is a mercy that none of the vehicles hit had a petrol leak at the time. Here is one weekly update by one peaceful protester “After 2 evenings of 30 incendiary devices being thrown at badger patrol from a rolling convoy of 10 4×4 vehicles, the police have given our cull zone area a police presence. on Monday evening 7 incendiaries were thrown at badger patrol from 3 moving 4x4s, this quickly escalated on Tuesday evening to 23 incendiaries being thrown at badger patrol from a rolling convoy of 10 4x4s.3 separate police units were called to multiple incidences, all licence plates were recorded and given to police, the rolling convoy of 10 4×4 vehicles were able to outsmart the 3 police units all evening with no arrests made !!!”
·Police have handed out civil injunctions on behalf of the NFU to anyone and everyone who stood still for long enough, often just handing people pieces of paper but not saying anything at all. As a civil matter this was not their job to do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sSAbrVb-V4
·The police repeatedly and illegally closed off roads and public footpaths to allow the cullers to kill badgers and prevent protest or access for Wounded Badger Patrols. They sometimes used false electricity signage to make it seem legitimate. No notice was ever given, this increased the chaos in the badger cull zones, and was a huge inconvenience to local residents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1LkUvLPueg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXGmJiSJR4M and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYf16zWHqZQ
·Local politicians requested more arrests towards the end of the Gloucestershire badger cull, so the police complied by arresting anyone, no matter how preposterous this was, including elderly and disabled protestors, all were later released without charge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP6lRX4k8-0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=go6SKilTtJQ
·The police took the number plate details, and filmed, every vehicle, driver and passengers in the badger cull zones, regardless of what they were doing.
· The police operated an unofficial and thus an illegal curfew during night time hours in both cull zones, stopping and searching every vehicle that came into the badger cull zones, including locals going to and from nightshift work.
· The police used very large hire vehicles (the size of library busses) to block protesters into narrow lanes so that they could not get close to the cullers or to the badgers. No reason was ever given.
· Of the dozens of protesters and Wounded Badger Patrollers arrested all but one were released without charge. Only one protester is facing a court trail and it is expected she will be found not guilty of any offence. Her crime was to run across a field waving her torch. https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/coventry-protester-only-person-uk-6410353
·In all cases of violence against protestors, the police have done their utmost to drop and close these cases as quickly as possible, and not carry them through to court as those victims wished.
·Throughout the police behaved as the private security firm for the NFU and the culling companies. There were even reports of them helping to bag up and transport the bodies of dead badgers. They behaved in a partisan fashion in both zones.
·Officers were brought together from 20 different police forces at considerable expense. When the cull was 2/3rds in the cost of policing was £4 million. The government is refusing to answer freedom of information requests for the full cost of the two pilot badger cull zones. The estimated cost at £50,000 per day, is close to £6 million.
· Originally the cost of policing was supposed to be borne by the farmers taking part in the pilot culls. This has since been switched to be borne by the British taxpayers via DEFRA.
·Given the majority of the British public are against this badger cull, and at a time of austerity, this squandering of taxpayers money will be criticised.
· If a further 10 badger culls are rolled out, or all of Devon and Cornwall along side the 2 existing and continuing badger culls the cost of policing, alone, will be truly eye watering.
Impact on rural communities
- As experience in West Somersetand Gloucestershire show, hosting a badger cull divides rural communities down the middle. It pits neighbour against neighbour, farmer against farmer, farmer against villagers and farmers against the NFU. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/10275440/Cull-splits-village-as-pensioner-names-and-shames-badger-shooting-neighbour.html and https://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Posters-badger-killers/story-19733942-detail/story.html to name but two articles outing a local pensioner for defending her badgers.
- These government sanctioned badger killings have damaged the image of British farming, and farmers who oppose the badger cull get very little hearing https://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Cheltenham-farmers-come-badger-cull/story-19972933-detail/story.html
- It hits the local economy very hard indeed, particularly the tourist industries that many rural communities, including farmers, rely on. When the public hear bullets with an up to 2 mile trajectory are being used to kill British wildlife, they have no desire to take their annual holiday within 2 miles of a badger cull zone.
- This year the badger culls started on an August bank holiday. In short the Government don’t care about the cost to tourism of rolling out more badger culls. The reliance on tourism in Devon andCornwallis considerable, and is an extremely important part of the rural economy.
- When the Welsh government first proposed a badger cull in Pembrokeshire there was a sudden and dramatic fall in visitor numbers to the area. When they announced they would go with a 5 year badger vaccination programme instead, visitor numbers rose to higher than the previous levels. https://www.assemblywales.org/22._tourists_against_the_cull_and_yvette_brown.pdf
- The distress this has caused many residents has lead some of them to try to sell their homes and move out of the area, however, with the threat of further badger culls hanging over them, some are undecided as to where they can move to in order to escape the near civil war they have found themselves in during 2013.
- One retired couple, who live in a remote farm house at the end of a lane with no other means of escape, have been prisoners in their own home, as shooting has been carried out all around their property, either side of their lane simultaneously. As they are looking after their elderly father, who is ill, and as they were kept awake every night for many weeks, this amounts to state endorsed terrorism.
- There has been a rise in road deaths of badgers and other animals in the cull zones from cullers driving through quiet country lanes at high speed late at night. This image is one I took just seconds after a car full of teenage cullers hit this badger. It had been flushed out of a field, clearly terrified by shooting, using an old rarely used badger run. It died in front of me, and I took this photograph once I was certain there was nothing more I could do to save it. This volume of traffic hurtling down quiet country lanes and village streets was not what these residents were expecting when a badger cull was imposed on them.
- With the general wildlife crime levels also soaring in the badger cull zones thanks to the green light given by this government, the lack of prosecutions of wildlife criminals by the police, and neighbours no longer trusting neighbours, it will take decades for these rural communities to heal.
- The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is an omnivorous native mammal, (not carnivorous as reported in some of the press), which have lived in theUKfor ½ a million years. In other words, badgers were here in theUKbefore we were.
- Most badgers live for around 4 years in the wild.
- They are a social animal living in clans with a dominant pair who do most of the breeding for the group. They donotbreed like rabbits; there is a strong social hierarchy that prevents this. Cubs are born in ones and twos not in huge litters, and the delayed implantation of sow badgers ensures all cubs are born at the same time. The average number of cubs born is a sett is around 4 per year.
- Badgers are fiercely territorial, marking the borders of their land with scent to tell neighbouring clans that this is their land. These borders are checked regularly and scent marking refreshed. Badger culling breaks down all social barriers and encourages movement of badgers across the county; the ‘perturbation’ effect.
- Badger setts can be in continuous occupation for a very long time, which is clear evidence of long standing stable social groups. Large setts can be well over 1,000 years old and the existence of badger setts can be traced in all British town names which include the word ‘Brock’.
- Badger numbers do fluctuate with seasonal and climatic changes, and the availability of food. Their main food source are earth worms and other soil based invertebrates. If there is flooding of land they are forced to move on if they cannot access their main food source, as was seen in 2012 with the flooding of theSomersetlevels, where badgers moved to higher land, sometimes into towns.
- Badger numbers are not ‘out of control’ as often reported by West Country newspapers and the farming press. For centuries badgers have been persecuted for ‘sport’ in badger baiting, leading in the 1970’s to a very near extinction in many parts of theUK. This was addressed by the Protected Species’ act. Since the 1970’s the numbers of badgers has recovered to the optimum number that can be supported by the local food supply. Given the hierarchical nature of their breeding, where mostly the dominant pair breed, badger culling, particularly where one or both of the dominant pair are killed, will lead to further dramatic fluctuations in the badger population.
- There is no such thing as a ‘hard boundary’. Badgers are primarily suited to digging, but they can run well with turns of speed up to 30 mph, climb very successfully and can swim across rivers if they need to, including tidal estuaries.
- Badgers only produce around 1/2 a teacup cup full of faeces and urine per day. Their faecal deposits form part of their territory boundary markings as ‘latrines’ and are deposited in small scrapes in the ground, usually under trees where the undergrowth is sparse or non existent. These latrines are shared by other members of the same clan.
- Badgers are very hygienic animals and will air their bedding material in the sun to remove pests before taking it back into the sett. They are known to use strongly scented material such as wild garlic in their bedding to deter fleas.
- Around 50,000 badgers are killed on the roads in theUKevery year. Tests of these badgers have found bTB rates to be very low indeed with rarely ever any visible evidence of the disease.
- Badgers are often accused of causing the decline of the British hedgehog population, by those determined to demonise our native badgers. This accusation is denied by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, and it is worth pointing out that badgers have co-existed with hedgehogs for ½ a million years in theUK. The decline of the hedgehog population directly corresponds with increased intensification of farming, increased use of fencing, rising traffic levels in theUKand the rise in the use of pesticides.
- Farmers and gardeners are often annoyed by badgers digging holes in their search for food. However, the far sighted will realise the badgers search for grubs and other soil based invertebrates is often more helpful to us than harmful, feasting as they do on leather jacket and cock chafer grubs and other ‘pests’ of the soil and crops.
Bovine TB prevention
- Slurry and soil management is key. Bovine TB can exist in the soil for anything between 1 year 4 months and 2 years depending on the soil conditions. https://not-in-this-farmers-name.tumblr.com/post/47212416466/could-slurry-be-a-contributing-factor-to-bovine-tb
- Bovine TB is killed by ultraviolet light and reduced by drying, thus an individual cow pat is the perfect way for bTB bacteria to be killed.
- Most slurry is stored in the dark and moist, and thus breeds a culture of bTB to be spread on the land in industrial quantities, often many miles from the cows that produced it, further spreading bovine TB to other non infected areas. https://www.eenews.net/stories/1059991389
- Cows were vaccinated against bovine TB in theUKup until the 1970’s when we joined the E.U. At that time there was no test to differentiate infected cows from vaccinated cattle, but this has changed recently with the creation of the DIVA test.
- Since January 2013 there has been a 10% reduction in rates of bovine TB in cattle month on month due to improved biosecurity demanded by the EU and so implemented by DEFRA. This improvement is far bigger than any projected fall in TB in cattle due to a badger cull, which scientists say could only get, at best, a reduction of up to 16% on the rate of increase after hard culling for 9 years. https://www.farmingmonthly.co.uk/livestock/animal-health/7998-whisper-quietly-defra-tb-cattle-slaughter-rates-nearly-10-2012/
Percentage of tested cattle slaughtered due to infection 1996 – 2012
(please note, the dip in testing from 2000 – 2001 is due to the outbreak of foot and mouth, the following rapid rise can only be attributed to restocking with untested TB infected cattle.)
- DEFRA announced in the late summer this year that they would be carrying out cattle vaccination field trials next in 2014. Given that there is a cattle vaccine already in use around the world, and indeed the UK has used it in the past, and also that it does not need to be administered at a particular time of year, (unlike with badgers), there is no reason for this delay in trialling or in using the cattle vaccine nation wide.
- The proof that badgers can pass bTB to cattle was the work of one scientific experiment so contrived as to never be possible in real life. 4 badgers were purposely infected with bovine TB by forcing them to breathe in live bacteria as a vapour, (which is the main form of transmission). These badgers were then imprisoned in a very small shed with 8 young calves for many months. This experiment has not been repeated by any other scientist, and the result of this one experiment by Professor Cath Rees of NottinghamUniversityhas been used by Owen Paterson to claim up to 16% of outbreaks of bovine TB in cattle being caused by badgers. I discussed this with her at this event.https://www.badgergate.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Vaccination_flyer_-1.pdf at London Zoo in October 2013. See also https://www.globalresearch.ca/englands-killing-fields-h-m-governments-badger-culls-kill-scientific-honesty/5352805?fb_action_ids=585841071453052&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
- Bovine TB is affected by other diseases, most especially by avian TB or Paratuberculosis. Any mammal can catch Avian TB, and it then makes animals more susceptible to bovine TB, it also interferes with the skin test used to detect bTB. 50% of the UK’s intensively farmed chicken flocks and other farmed fowls have para TB. This is concentrated in chicken litter which is spread as fertiliser on fields. It can survive in the soil and in water for a very long time, far longer than bovine TB.https://www.not-in-this-farmers-name.com/
- The increasing use of maize for cattle feed leads to mineral deficiency in both cattle and in badgers, (as badgers love maize too).Mineral deficiency will also make an animal more susceptible to bovine TB. Good soil management and mineral licks for both badgers and cattle will correct this.
- This present government’s push for increased intensification of farming in general, and of dairy farming in particular, giving rise to even bigger numbers of cattle, often in TB hot spot areas where cattle are already close to being the local monoculture, will lead to higher incidences of many diseases including bovine TB. https://www.farmersguardian.com/home/business/british-dairying-seeking-global-growth-nfu/59737.article?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NLDairy
- The increasing stress caused to cows in intensive farming to produce more and more milk will also make them more susceptible to many diseases including avian and bovine TB.
- Biosecurity is often seen by many to mean just keeping badgers separate from cattle. However, the main form of transmission of TB within cattle is cow to cow. It is thus very important that TB infected cattle be kept away from other cows, not be allowed to breathe on neighbouring herds, cattle troughs are cleaned regularly, and that all cattle markets, and especially those which deal with TB infected cattle, follow the guidelines on biosecurity to the letter. Sadly this is rarely the case. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8gpyyKgKCQ and https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenvfru/258/258vw06.htm
- Some cattle breeds are more susceptible to bovine TB than others. The British Friesian, which was resistant to bTB, have been replaced by European Holsteins (95% of the British Dairy industry), which produce more milk but are more susceptible to bovine TB. In addition they are not really suited to the wet British climate and need to be overwintered indoors. This increases contact between cattle, slurry is collected and stored in industrial quantities further spreading bTB, and immunity is greatly lowered by the stressful, unnatural and sometimes filthy conditions.https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=388130831292624
- Cattle which have fought off bTB show up as reactors using the much used skin test. Killing off cattle which have a natural immunity further weakens the gene pool, just because a diagnostic test is being miss applied.
- The skin test was only ever intended to be an indicator of bTB in the herd and not as an indicator of bTB in individual cattle. The skin test gives 20% false negatives which means infected but not reacting cattle are returned to the herd to infect more cattle.
- The DIVA test is more than 99% accurate and produces no false negatives.
- The recent reliance on artificial insemination has also lead to a further shrinking of the gene pool. Many of the bulls still used for their semen are long since dead by decades, and so there is now a degree of inbreeding. Narrowing of a gene pool will also make animals more susceptible to diseases.
- All the top scientists and experts in the country know that this disease begins with the beef and dairy industry and that this is where the solution lays.
- No scientist can demonstrate how a badger could possibly give bovine TB to cattle in the field.
- No scientists agree that a cull of badgers will make any meaningful difference to bTB in cattle. The £49 million, 9 year Randomised Badger Culling Trials conducted by Lord Krebs paid for by the British taxpayer concluded killing badgers would make “no meaningful difference to bovine TB in cattle”. The Government has been unable to produce one credible scientist to back their badger killing plans as a means to control bTB in cattle.https://www.globalresearch.ca/englands-killing-fields-h-m-governments-badger-culls-kill-scientific-honesty/5352805?fb_action_ids=585841071453052&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
- As bovine TB can be caught by every animal, including humans, and as the incidences of bovine TB outside of bovines is highest in farmed and domesticated animals, killing wild badgers will not work to reduce bovine TB in cattle. Bovine TB is highest in pigs, cats and alpacas, and no one would suggest a mass slaughter of them. Going to the source of the infection in cattle is the only answer.
- Politicians need to question DEFRAs reluctance to vaccinate cattle. The vaccine and an excellent diagnostic tool are available but not being used. https://www.thebeefsite.com/news/44607/brucellosis-and-tuberculosis-success-model-for-elsewhere
- TB infected beef is being sold both to the British public https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jI_gBOwrdU and exported abroad, with nations such as France https://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1284229.ece furious that we are selling them “TB fresh” meat. No one is prepared to define what temperatures and cooking methods will kill bTB bacteria in meat. Never the less DEFRA and our government are stonewalling on cattle vaccination and our MPs are letting them, as well as allowing the killing of a wild native species which catches TB from cattle, is not a major carrier, and would need a massively contrived scenario to pass this disease to anything else.
- As hundreds of cage traps were used in both Somersetand Gloucestershire to shoot badgers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6qYzV2sPDYThere is no reason why those same cage traps cannot be used to vaccinate badgers using trained volunteers.
- TBVACwith over 50 active members (vaccinators, trainee vaccinators and sett surveyors), is probably the largest volunteer run badger vaccination scheme in the country. We aim to vaccinate as many badgers as possible across all ofDevonin 2014.
- The BCG vaccine in badgers is 76% effective. This makes it one of the highest efficacy rates of any vaccine.
- The same vaccine in humans is only 50% effective but we have herd immunity all the same.
- Badger cubs born into a sett with vaccinated adults have a far greater immunity to bovine TB as a result.
- Vaccinating an infected badger will slow down the progression of the disease and greatly reduces bTB excretion at the end of life.
- Volunteer badger vaccination schemes will vaccinate for just the cost of the vaccine, which is far cheaper than taking part in a badger cull. There is no social upheaval for either badgers or the local human population, and with no threat to the local tourist economy.
- Sett surveying can be done any time of year although spring is the best time. Vaccination takes places in the summer and autumn.
- Badgers often do not notice the injection of the vaccine, but they do often get a bit jumpy about the fur clipping before the stock spray is used as a temporary marker.
- It is illegal to permanently mark or tag a badger, so often badgers will get vaccinated every year, but this does them no harm.
- Badgers only live on average for 4 years so a 4 year vaccination programme will eliminate bTB in badgers. However, if there are cattle present, the soil and slurry spreading must be managed to prevent re-infection of the badgers in later years.
- Vaccinated badgers are entitled to a buffer zone around the land that took part in badger vaccination, however enforcing this was difficult inSomersetwith only small farms taking part. There is safety in numbers so contiguous vaccination is desirable and makes it easier to enforce buffer zones.
- If a badger is found to be ill when vaccinating a vet has to be called, and if visibly ill, the vet will euthanize a sick badger.
- This year in Pembrokeshire the Welsh Government vaccinated more than 1,400of badgers against bovine TB, in a TB hotspot area. No vet needed to be called as no badgers were visibly ill. Given that Owen Paterson would have us believe the nations badgers are riddled with this disease, and that to kill them all is a mercy, the facts, as usual, show otherwise. https://www.farmingmonthly.co.uk/livestock/animal-health/7947-claims-that-high-number-of-badgers-are-sick-undermined-by-welsh-research/
- The Welsh badger vaccination scheme is being staffed by DEFRA, not by volunteers, which is why the official cost of badger vaccination is so high. Using volunteers makes badger vaccination affordable and ethical at a fraction of the cost of taking part in a badger cull.
- The first action this government took on bovine TB when it came into power was to cut the funding for research in badger vaccines both oral and injectable by 4/5ths. If they had kept the funding at the same levels as Labour it is possible we may have had an oral badger vaccine by now.
- As a result of these cuts, it is expected that the oral badger vaccine will take another 5 years before it is available for wider use. The main issue is dosage to ensure adequate take up. The other issue is how to make it palatable to badgers, but given badgers love peanuts and peanut butter I really cannot see why the scientists are making heavy weather over this.
The pilot badger cull trials are evidence of corruption of the most important structures of the British political and governance systems concerning our countryside. Ranging from Natural England, DEFRA, FERA and the AHVLA to the giving of power to non elected organisations such as the NFU and the Countryside Alliance, the incorporating of likely wildlife criminals such as some members of the culling teams and escalating all the way up to our heads of state. In short they are “all in it together”.
It is clear that after this government changes this country will need far better environmental protection laws which cannot be overturned at the whim of a minority government. Our countryside and its wildlife are far too important to be used in the future as a political football.
We shall also need a properly independent non party political organisation to oversee the protection of our countryside and of our wildlife, and prevent a disaster like this happening again to our wildlife and to our rural communities.
Ama Menec, Chair ofTBVACDevon wide badger vaccination, 30thDecember 2013
I can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 07773902702