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Badger cull backfires

Well Owen Paterson's blamed the badgers for moving the goalposts but it turns out that it was him who might have been playing on the wrong pitch all along. In fact it's looking as if the government-backed cull of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire has backfired spectacularly. Most of the country has actually seen a fall in cases of bovine TB, because biosecurity measures in cattle, such as testing them before moving, have been extended and better enforced in the past year. The badger cull zones, however, have seen more bovine TB than before!


Badger boffins predicted this, naming it the ‘perturbation effect’. Basically badgers are social animals and as the cull causes disruption to established setts, the surviving badgers roam to new territories, and if they happen to be infected of course they spread TB along the way. This process was shown in previous badger cull trials and experts warned it could happen in this one. The licence for the cull includes a condition that a minimum percentage of the badger population must be culled to minimise perturbation. This minimum wasn’t met, as it turned out that killing badgers ain’t so easy after all, especially with hundreds of saboteurs getting in the way as well.


DEFRA and its trigger happy minister Owen Paterson keep on insisting that killing badgers is necessary and humane, despite plenty of evidence even that commissioned by the department itself that it was in fact ineffective, expensive and cruel. Covering all bases though, Defra are now also supporting badger vaccination projects and have just announced they are looking into the infinitely more logical option of vaccinating cattle against TB. The vaccine has been successful in small trials, but needs to be tested on a wider scale and EU rules need to be updated to allow trade in vaccinated cattle. But none of this is impossible. Interestingly, one of the reasons they might not do this is because its expensive. No figures have been put forward but can it really be more expensive than five grand per badger for a maximum 16% decrease in TB in cattle? (For an analysis of why TB has very little to do with badgers SchNEWS TB or not TB)


There was an attempt to conduct the cull in such a way as to prevent the spread of disease but the rules within the cull licence were impractical and widely flouted. In one incident an anti-cull activist filmed contractors putting a dead badger in an open bag in the back of an open top vehicle, after leaving blood on the ground at the trap where the badger was shot. This breaks at least three of the rules at once, but guess who's ended up in court. Six months later, the spokesperson for Stop the Cull, Jay Tiernan, has been taken to court because the National Farmers Union says he took the video in contravention of a High Court injunction which prohibits filming those employed to shoot badgers. He now risks a prison sentence for revealing how this cull wasn't even conducted under DEFRA's own rules.

The badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset is widely expected to resume in September.

For more see Stop the Cull

There is 1 comment on this story...
Added By: Julia Michell - 22nd June 2014 @ 11:44 PM
We also need to remember that culling does not just encourage infected animals to flee to other places but that the stress that culling causes ie the breakdown of family groups and stability, lowers the animals resistance to disease and illness thus, opening the door to TB infection which, as we all know, exists in the very ground.
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