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Dominic Dyer: Badger cull will be damaging for David Cameron

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 12, 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron talking to farming folk during his visit to the North Devon Show last week       Picture: Mike Southon

Prime Minister David Cameron talking to farming folk during his visit to the North Devon Show last week Picture: Mike Southon

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David Cameron came to Devon last week with support for the badger cull. Dominic Dyer of Care for the Wild International thinks he's wrong.

David Cameron came out fighting for the farming industry on his visit to the North Devon Show last week, but the badger cull policy threatens lasting damage to the reputation of the government and farmers in the South West, not least when it comes to animal welfare.

Within hours of the Prime Minister telling BBC Radio 4's Farming Today that only he has the political courage to deliver a cull, Defra officials confirmed to Care for the Wild International and Pauline Latham MP that out of 5,500 badgers to be shot during the pilot culls, only 120 will be independently monitored for 'humaneness'.

This, combined with confirmation from Natural England that they will have only four shoot monitors to cover the whole of West Gloucestershire and West Somerset during the pilot culls, leaves David Cameron in the unenviable position of defending a policy which a majority of the public believe will result in unnecessary pain and suffering for thousands of badgers.

Any reassurance from Natural England that it will make up for the lack of monitors on the ground by undertaking follow-up phone calls with the marksmen to check what happened on shoots the previous night, is unlikely to reduce the public pressure on the Prime Minister or MPs in the cull zones in the weeks ahead. None of the shooters to be used for the cull will have any previous experience of shooting badgers and by Defra's own estimate, free shooting at night will result in many badgers suffering non-fatal wounds and a long painful death from organ failure, secondary infection and starvation.

The Prime Minister might try to justify the cull as being good for the welfare of badgers which carry TB, but the vast majority of badgers live their natural lives without showing any clinical signs of the disease. In a large sample only around 1% had extensive signs of TB. It's now clear to all that the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are simply an exercise in discovering if the free shooting of badgers at night will allow a sufficient number to be killed in a limited time span, to enable a national roll-out of the cull programme next year.

Any attempt by the government to reassure the public that measures will be put in place to gauge humaneness is little more than window dressing – over 95% of the badgers to be killed in the weeks ahead will not be independently monitored and might well die long painful deaths as a result. Not only is this unjustifiably cruel, but it also significantly increases the risk of disrupting badger populations, causing many to move between setts and increasing the risk of disease spread, which is the exact opposite to what the cull is setting out to achieve.

Despite the fighting talk from David Cameron on the need to show courage to see the badger cull through, many in his cabinet have serious misgivings about the policy and Lynton Crosby, his election strategist, has no doubt been ringing alarm bells that Twitter and You Tube images of thousands of dead and injured badgers this summer will not be a vote winner in Middle England.

The damage to the reputation of hard-pressed livestock farmers in the South West could be even worse. At a time when they are seeking public support for higher milk prices and looking to convince a new generation to come into the farming industry, they cannot afford to alienate the public by backing a cull policy, which many see as having no scientific, economic or animal welfare justification.

It often takes more courage for a politician to admit they are wrong than to plough ahead with a failed policy despite the consequences – food for thought for the Prime Minister when it comes to the badger cull in the weeks ahead.

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18 comments

  • BRAVEbadgers  |  August 18 2013, 5:59PM

    The proposal to 'roll-out' further culls in 2014 is likely to include Cornwall. An e-petition has been set up on the Cornwall CC website to 'Save Cornwall's badgers from Culling'. Please sign; here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/magkphq or go via http://tinyurl.com/mrlgqz6 Thank you.

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  • aitchangle  |  August 16 2013, 3:07PM

    If you are so keen to 'learn from history' as the grand old man put it,why do you close your ears to the authors of both the UK and New Zealand government reports who point out this cull is a nonsense? Ask yourself these questions: 1) Do you believe a partial cull will eliminate bovine TB? 2) Do you believe enough is being done currently by way of good husbandry by every farmer? 3) Do you think judging the degree of suffering by 'timing the screams' of dying badgers and comparing the (few) recordings with the sound issued by harpooned whales is something you should countenance as a matter of conscience? 4) Do you believe that a complete cull to eliminate the entire population of native badgers which has been proposed as a 'final solution' (where have I heard that before?) would be tolerated by the British public? 5) Are you arguing from a position of genuine knowledge, or have you just found yourself in an entrenched position. I am not an animal activist. I kill and eat things regularly and believe anyone who consumes animals should be honest enough to do the same. I entered this debate playing Devil's advocate to my wife who is passionate about this but bothered to read all the evidence I could find. As a member of the Anglers Trust (and previously as it was the Anglers Cooperative Association) I know what havoc some farmers have wreaked upon our rivers. For years this meant confrontation. In these more enlightened times farmers respond more to education and wit the Trust's help many have stopped the needless pollution of waterways. I believe educated debate can resolve this problem - not bickering or quoting history. If you are a mindless sadist - carry on and be damned - as such you will be judged. If you are a sane, logical human being, take the time to re-evaluate your argument. Will you continue for the next fifty years trying to wipe out badgers as you have for the last fifty? Or will you realise that only vaccination will resolve this. Don't worry, as soon as the drug companies get on the case that'll be that. If Mr Cameron didn't rely so much on donations from the NFU I'm sure we wouldn't be having this little chat. You want a quote? 'Only a fool persists in error......' Marcus Tullius Cicero.

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  • mmjames  |  August 16 2013, 12:49PM

    aitchangle Friday, August 16 2013, 10:50AM "I checked the link which mmjames included. An article by a man who died in 1993 and wrote on this subject in 1980 (33 years ago!!! .......................... Winston Churchill has been credited with saying, 'Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it'

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  • mmjames  |  August 16 2013, 11:14AM

    PS in those days cattle and badgers were both enjoyed on the farm, as if zTB did occur, both animals were dealt with......... no locking up of cattle on the ADVICE of AHVLA as here http://tinyurl.com/oklhq6e

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  • mmjames  |  August 16 2013, 11:11AM

    aitchangle Friday, August 16 2013, 10:50AM You may denigrate 'old' knowledge to your detriment. The point is during that time zTB was well under control, which now it is NOT.

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  • aitchangle  |  August 16 2013, 10:50AM

    I checked the link which mmjames included. An article by a man who died in 1993 and wrote on this subject in 1980 (33 years ago!!!) Is that the best argument you can come up with for supporting the cull? Any earlier you'd be shooting the poor things with bows and arrows. Man Up!!! Spend some money on higher water troughs and better fencing or keep your cattle in protected sheds as per Countryfile showed. The farming community has £1.2 billion lodged with NFU Mutual for God's sake accept your responsibilities - it's not as if any of you believe this cull will work unless you kill each and every animal (and that ain't gonna happen as you well know). You've been gassing and trapping and filling in setts since the early 60' and failed - why not seek proper precautions - segregation, less cattle movement (flogging each other infected herds), better husbandry and , if available, vaccination.

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  • mmjames  |  August 14 2013, 11:01PM

    https://twitter.com/terrierview/status/366504786855596032/photo/1

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  • stormkettle  |  August 12 2013, 8:56PM

    For how many years has Agribusiness not been vaccinating their cattle ?

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  • weterthntwest  |  August 12 2013, 8:09PM

    David Cameron has not given much thought to what he means by "appalling consequences for badgers". If the badger population is reduced to small, isolated groups, genetic diversity will be reduced and those populations will be more susceptible to disease. This form of culling is indiscriminate and removes healthy animals, reducing the potential for the population to develop genetic resistance to disease. This will harm badgers and possibly risk spreading bTB to new areas outside the cull zones. Vaccination does not create these risks and is a far safer option. I am surprised that the government is not promoting vaccination more robustly. If the right leadership was provided by the government, cooperation between NGO's, farmers and the government could make vaccination the most effective option. The oral vaccination which will solve a lot of problems is so close that in terms of preventing perturbation and harm to wildlife, it is worth waiting for. The rate of bTB is consistently falling. Badger culling is not going to remove movement restrictions and testing regimes immediately, in fact it more effort will be expected in these areas to prevent perturbation in the areas bordering the culling zones. If the cull spreads bTB to new areas, movement restrictions and risk based trading will become intensified.

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  • fischadler  |  August 12 2013, 8:06PM

    I cannot undestand why anyone in their right mind would think that a badger cull will have any meaningful effect on Bovine TB. It is blatantly obvious that the cattle in the cull zones are not being looked after properly and thus their immunity is lowered. They also seem to be kept in sheds even in summer. How on earth can this promote healthy cattle. Farmers are having the spotlight shone on their 'activities' and unless thay want more of the same they should abandon this obscene cull.

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