According to recent news items, farmers and land managers in England’s Bovine TB hotspots might soon be able to obtain licences from Natural England allowing them to kill badgers. Bovine TB is a major problem with 30,000 cattle slaughtered in 2009 in a bid to control it.
The CLA welcomed rumours that Defra could change the rules and allow licenced badger culls in the areas of England most affected by the disease.
CLA President William Worsley said, “We are very pleased that it appears that farmers and land managers in Bovine TB ‘hotspots’ will be allowed to apply for a Natural England licence to cull badgers. Permitting a cull in the worst affected parts of England is absolutely the right decision.”
Natural England would, it seems, have to rethink its policy position in response to the latest Defra thinking.
Currently the NE website explains why badger culling for Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) has not been something for which they provided a licence. Their website says (12 Seot 2010): “Natural England accepts that badgers are a disease reservoir and their role in transmitting bTB to cattle cannot be ignored. However, the scientific evidence indicates that culling badgers can exacerbate the spread of the disease in cattle through perturbation of the badger population.”
The Secretary of State back in 2008 (Hilary Benn) announced that killing badgers would not form part of the strategy to tackle bTB – a decision reviewable in the light of any new research evidence about the potential value of killing your local badgers. Defra set up the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project.
Badger vaccinations in Gloucestershire will be featured in the next episode of BBC Countryfile 19 Sept 2010.
There has been plenty of talk during 2010 of u-turns and counter u-turns on this issue of to kill or not to kill. In July the Badger Trust challenged a cull planned in western Wales, and their campaign succeeded when the Appeal Court found the Welsh Assembly Government did not have a proper justification for the exercise. It has been suggested that all the Welsh Assembly agriculture department needs to do is reconfigure a fresh project to meet the necessary requirements and has intentions to establish another cull.
This was despite the 2009 research which showed how unhelpful killing out badgers is in practice. The same was true of both proactive and reactive culls in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) – a large scale experiment which killed 11,000 badgers.
Defra’s web pages on bTB and the badger killing question features research papers on the effectiveness of shooting, trapping, snares and gassing.
Gassing methods discussed include suffocating the occupants of a badger sett with the fumes from a badly tuned petrol engine; an easy option with death-camp practicality.