Badger Update – People power and Labour Opposition could force rethink on cull plans

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The groundswell of opinion is gathering speed and a voice .

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary in The Guardian … The last Labour government set up the 10-year randomised badger cull trial (RBCT) to see whether culling badgers reduced the transmission of bovine TB. The final report of the independent scientific group which oversaw the study stated: “reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results … suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain

PLUS …. Labour have launched a campaign against a proposed cull of badgers in England to curb tuberculosis in cattle.The government – backed by its senior scientific advisors – is in favour of a cull to stop badgers spreading the disease to cattle. But opponents {Labour} say its preferred method – shooting – could actually make the problem worse and shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh wants a rethink.

 

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14572655

 

Bovine TB is a terrible disease. Last year alone, 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England at a cost of £90m to the taxpayer in testing andcompensation for farmers. In hotspot areas like the south-west of England, the toll on farmers is immense.

The last Labour government set up the 10-year randomised badger cull trial (RBCT) to see whether culling badgers reduced the transmission of bovine TB. The final report of the independent scientific group which oversaw the study stated: “reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results … suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain

Labour’s approach in government was – and continues to be – led by this science. In July, the government announced a consultation to license the shooting of badgers. Free shooting as a method of controlling bovine TB has not been tested anywhere. We need a science-led approach to this issue, not a knee-jerk reaction. That is why I have written to 25,000 supporters around the country urging them to lobby their MPs. The Labour party has launched a new website, www.NoBadgerCull.com. Thedebacle of the forest sell-off and the Fish Fight campaign has demonstrated that people power can change the minds of those in government. We now need to mobilise public support again to force ministers to return to the science.

The government’s badger cull is driven by short-term political calculation. The nation’s leading scientific experts met in April this year to revisit the research. They concluded that a cull would cut TB in cattle by just 16% after nine years, and then, only in conditions that were the same as Labour’s RBCT. Those trials used cage trapping and shooting of badgers, the most humane method, but that method costs £2,500 per km square a year. Free shooting has never been tested as a way of controlling bovine TB, but in the government’s eyes it has the enormous advantage of being cheap, at just £200 per km square a year.

Free shooting is cheap but it is not a silver bullet. Culling must be sustained over at least four years, as, in the first couple of years perturbation (where badgers move out of the cull area and infect neighbouring farms) is an acknowledged problem. How will ministers ensure that a cull doesn’t start, run for a year or two and then stop? They propose that farmers should organise themselves into limited companies and pay in advance to mitigate the government against the risks that one of the farmers drops out and the taxpayer has to step in to finish the job. It will be interesting to see how many farmers sign up to this.

Last year, environment ministers cancelled five of Labour’s six trials of a vaccine for badger TB. Why did they not give those vaccine trials a chance to work, or use the vaccine as a biological cordon sanitaire to prevent further geographic spread of the disease northwards?

There are also public order concerns with a badger cull. The government’s impact assessment estimated that extra police to deal with protesters against the cull will cost £200,000 a year. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will take on this extra cost even though it has been cut by 30%. Ministers are silent on who will pay if the costs exceed that amount. It is likely that armed police will be required to police any protests as the people carrying out the cull will have guns. Devon and Cornwall police are losing 700 officers over the next four years.

Defra estimates that 50,000-90,000 badgers will be culled over four years. The costs to farmers will exceed the benefits and will increase bovine TB in the short term. The costs of bovine TB to the taxpayer will rumble on as testing and compensation continue to be paid. Thecoalition agreement promised farmers a “science-led” approach on bovine TB. This cull has no scientific basis, may not work and could make matters worse. It is bad for taxpayers, bad for farmers and bad for badgers and has the lingering whiff of the forest sell-off to it.

• Mary Creagh is the shadow environment secretary

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One thought on “Badger Update – People power and Labour Opposition could force rethink on cull plans

  1. Pingback: Wildlife Update : Let’s blame the badger, shall we… ? « LEARN FROM NATURE

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