Login Register

Badger cull in tatters as sources say trial 'risks failure'

By WMNAGreenwood  |  Posted: September 12, 2013

badger
Comments (55)

The badger culling trial – a ray of hope for Westcountry farmers in the fight against the ravages of bovine tuberculosis – is already at risk of failing.

The Western Morning News has learned only a handful of badgers are being shot daily in the Exmoor culling area.

After almost two weeks of shooting, the total toll was said to be “well below 100” – a tiny proportion of the 2,000 badgers which need to be culled if the six-week trials are to be successful.

The culling company is also said to be “desperate” to recruit more marksmen to prevent the pilot, a vital part of the Government’s strategy to combat the disease, from crumbling.

One well-placed source told the Western Morning News: “They are having major problems. Only three or four badgers are being shot every day. It is just a case now of who gets the blame for the whole thing failing.”

In West Somerset, the target is to kill between 2,081 and 2,162 badgers, an average of about 50 badgers a day, which represents some 70% of the local population.

The controversial cull started in Somerset on August 26 and is also being held in Gloucestershire.

At current rates, the pilots could fail the “effectiveness” test set by the Government – jeopardising the rapid roll-out of culling to other TB hotspot areas which farming leaders say is vital.

The trials will also determine whether shooting is a safe and humane way of killing badgers.

Derek Mead, an entrepreneur dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare, said in the WMN: “I understand the West Somerset badger cull may be failing to meet its own target, despite [Secretary of State] Owen Paterson’s assurances that the operation is proceeding according to plan.

“The information I have been given suggests that as at the middle of last week the number of badgers accounted for was still well below 100.

“We have to remember, of course, that this exercise is merely to test the effectiveness of culling, not one aimed at clearing up TB.”

The culls were licensed as part of the Government’s long-term plan to tackle bovine TB, which resulted in more than 20,000 cattle being slaughtered in the South West last year.

Latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show 1,353 cattle in Cornwall and 2,683 in Devon were slaughtered because of bovine TB in the first six months of this year.

The figures are down from 1,573 and 3,215 respectively from the same period in 2012.

Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union in the South West, said talk of a crisis was “premature”.

“It is a pilot cull therefore we can’t fully assess the effectiveness of it until it is completed,” he said. “It still has some way to go. I would say making such comments could be somewhat premature. We shall have to wait and see.”

There was no indication from Defra yesterday that its position has changed.

In a written statement to the Commons last week, Mr Paterson said: “I understand the pilot cull is proceeding to plan and those involved are pleased with progress to date.”

Both farmers and ministers insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle through urine and faeces, is needed to stop the disease spreading. Compensation payments and control measures have cost the taxpayer in England £500 million in the last decade.

Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s chief scientific adviser, this week warned the disease could not be ignored. “It is increasing at 9% per annum, despite the fact that we are putting in as much effort into controlling it in cattle as we can reasonably do so,” he said.

“It will continue to increase like that, it will continue to spread over a wider area, it may well get into other livestock, not just cattle, and we have already seen that to some extent.”

Opponents say culling the animals will have only a small effect on infection rates and will lead to badgers suffering. The emphasis, they argue, should be on vaccines and tighter cattle movement measures.

More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition against the culls while protesters are trying to disrupt culling efforts.

Paul Caruana, corrwho worked on the Randomised Badger Culling Trials which ran between 1998 and 2007 and is now an independent badger consultant, said the pilots were beset by practical problems.

He explained: “When badgers are out foraging, we often used to see 12 to 15 badgers in a field at the same time. If you hit one the others are going to disappear. Then you have a problem.”

Cornwall-based Mr Caruana, who is opposed to mass culling, said a shift from shooting free-running badgers to trapping was also problematic.

“The easiest time to trap animals is when they are hungry, when there is little food about,” he said. “But from June onwards, more and more natural food becomes available.”

He added that the biggest problem was “antis” damaging the traps.

He said of the current cull: “I think it was set up to fail, certainly. There are too many issues. I want to see it work but the way it was set up I can’t see it working.”

VIDEO: Life on the ground at badger camp - new footage released from cull zone

Dead badger is dumped on MP's doorstep

Queen star angers Jewish community by likening badger cull to genocide

Badger cull protesters were not shot at, say police

Map reveals bovine TB hotspots across the country

PICTURES: Hundreds of protesters join in march to stop pilot cull

 

Read more from Western Morning News

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters

55 comments

  • Charlespk  |  September 19 2013, 8:44PM

    That's because you have no idea what you are talking about sluscombe. Badgers and bovine TB. The indisputable, historic, scientific facts. http://tinyurl.com/bw7jpxy

    |   2
  • sluscombe  |  September 17 2013, 10:05AM

    Every bone in my body says that this is a stupid policy from start to finish. It does not work, it destroys the natural ecological balance but most of all it demonstrates the power of the farming lobby to have its way over what is best for the natural environment.

    |   -2
  • Free2opine  |  September 14 2013, 7:12PM

    pps Incidentally, this early day motion was called in June i.e. before the current culling and it is to discuss any roll-outs of further culls. As no decisions are to be made before 2014 on this current cull, this probably won't be discussed until any new adaptions (if any) are decided on.

    |   2
  • Free2opine  |  September 14 2013, 5:27PM

    ps Of those calling for the motion, very few are "countryside seats" Lewisham! Ealing!, Eastleigh!, Southall! Stoke on Trent! Glasgow! Leeds! Birmingham! Eastbourne!....and so on..and so on...and so on!!!!!!

    |   3
  • Charlespk  |  September 14 2013, 5:24PM

    http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9 Suggestions that human tuberculosis arose from M. bovis in hunted or domesticated animals have been revised since comparative genomic studies demonstrate that M. bovis represents a later lineage . Members of the M. tuberculosis complex are genetically very similar and were believed to be the result of a clonal expansion following an evolutionary bottleneck 20,000–35,000 years ago . However, further genomic studies of the M. tuberculosis complex indicate a more ancient origin of this group of closely related species than had previously been believed, and that possibly an early progenitor, perhaps similar to M. canettii, was present in East Africa as early as 3 million years ago. The observation of non-specific lesions consistent with tuberculosis found in a 500,000 year-old skeleton of **** erectus may also indicate the long-term co-existence of host and pathogen, although the diagnosis in this particular case has been questioned. However, M. tuberculosis appears to have undergone long-term co-evolution with its human host prior to the evolutionary bottleneck and well before the development of agriculture and domestication, comparable to other long-term human pathogens such as Helicobacter pylori. The present study of a population from 9250-8160 years ago, around the time of the first great transition from hunter-gatherers to a settled agriculture-based lifestyle, helps us to understand the nature of tuberculosis within the Middle East. Could the presence of cattle be pertinent? Atlit-Yam is among the very few Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites where domesticated cattle have been found. Furthermore, it is the only Neolithic site where there were quantities of bovine bones, indicating that cattle were a major dietary component. We suggest that in the absence of detectable M. bovis, the cattle may be important by supporting a larger and denser human population, thus indirectly encouraging the conditions for the long-term maintenance and transmission of M. tuberculosis. http://tinyurl.com/6p4rh6 (open in a new window)

    |   2
  • Charlespk  |  September 14 2013, 5:24PM

    http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9 Suggestions that human tuberculosis arose from M. bovis in hunted or domesticated animals have been revised since comparative genomic studies demonstrate that M. bovis represents a later lineage . Members of the M. tuberculosis complex are genetically very similar and were believed to be the result of a clonal expansion following an evolutionary bottleneck 20,000–35,000 years ago . However, further genomic studies of the M. tuberculosis complex indicate a more ancient origin of this group of closely related species than had previously been believed, and that possibly an early progenitor, perhaps similar to M. canettii, was present in East Africa as early as 3 million years ago. The observation of non-specific lesions consistent with tuberculosis found in a 500,000 year-old skeleton of **** erectus may also indicate the long-term co-existence of host and pathogen, although the diagnosis in this particular case has been questioned. However, M. tuberculosis appears to have undergone long-term co-evolution with its human host prior to the evolutionary bottleneck and well before the development of agriculture and domestication, comparable to other long-term human pathogens such as Helicobacter pylori. The present study of a population from 9250-8160 years ago, around the time of the first great transition from hunter-gatherers to a settled agriculture-based lifestyle, helps us to understand the nature of tuberculosis within the Middle East. Could the presence of cattle be pertinent? Atlit-Yam is among the very few Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites where domesticated cattle have been found. Furthermore, it is the only Neolithic site where there were quantities of bovine bones, indicating that cattle were a major dietary component. We suggest that in the absence of detectable M. bovis, the cattle may be important by supporting a larger and denser human population, thus indirectly encouraging the conditions for the long-term maintenance and transmission of M. tuberculosis. http://tinyurl.com/6p4rh6 (open in a new window)

    |   2
  • Free2opine  |  September 14 2013, 5:17PM

    Politicking, pure and simple.......17 Cons votes, 19 Lib/Dem votes, 6 various, the remainder , 124 Labour. Still less than those who voted against the cull in the first place! The Welsh are questioning whether the vaccination programme is giving the results they were hoping for. The National Trust are no longer banning culling on their sites.

    |   2
  • Charlespk  |  September 14 2013, 5:06PM

    The badgerists are now getting really desperate as this public health issue now brings the return to gassing of badgers ever closer. This will bring far quicker results in solving the crisis of the epidemic in wildlife, and expose their malfeasance much sooner.

    |   3
  • Clued-Up  |  September 14 2013, 4:13PM

    The culling companies are probably in dire financial trouble now. They can't deliver on their contracts with the landowners because their freelance shooters aren't being "paid" and are leaving in droves. Presumably the landowners will now be able to sue the culling companies to get their money back. When in a hole stop digging ... The culling companies can't afford to change their badger killing technique without asking the landowners to pay a lot more money. Trapping badgers and then shooting them costs 12 times as much. What landowner will pay 12 times as much as he was first asked for, in order to support a project that's demonstrably failing? There's a high probability protesters will get to the traps before the shooters do and release the badgers (perhaps damaging the traps to prevent them being used again). More expense for the culling companies, to no profitable end. What else might they try? Gassing badgers would, I think, require a change in law, it would certainly have to be "got through" Parliament and that's not likely to happen. MPs in all parties know the badger cull is hated by most of the public and any MP who supports it is in political trouble with voters and his own party activists. We're getting close to the run up to the next election now so MPs really do not want to upset either group. Over 133 MPs have signed the Early Day Motion asking for a rethink on the badger cull. I don't think the rest of the Cabinet will back Paterson over extending or changing the badger cull. They don't share his obsession with killing badgers or hunting. They do worry over the damage the badger cull is doing to government budgets, the government's standing in the country and even the ConDem's (shaky) reputation for competence.

    |   -3
  • Charlespk  |  September 14 2013, 10:03AM

    @Soylent Green Even if that was true; which it's not; so what!! . They are opposed to taxes, conscription, and compulsory euthanasia, scroungers and God knows what else. . They just need educating about this pathogen, as clearly you do. . London is the TB Capital of Europe now. Wake up and smell the coffee!!! http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9 (open in a new window) Molecular typing of Mycobacterium bovis isolates in Argentina: first description of a person-to-person transmission case. http://tinyurl.com/bwxembw (open in a new window) Caught on holiday! http://tinyurl.com/6ddk4pb (open in a new window)

    |   4

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES