Badger cull delay welcome: time to throw weight behind alternatives
Tuesday 23rd October 2012
© Allan Potts
The Wildlife Trusts welcome the Environment Secretary’s announcement to delay the badger cull but are disappointed by his (economic) motives.
The Wildlife Trusts strongly urge the Government to use this time to focus on and plan a comprehensive vaccination strategy. The Government has not prioritised deployment of the BadgerBCG vaccine, taking a piecemeal approach with minimal effort to market and support its use.
Mike Pratt, NWT Chief Executive, said: “Delaying this cull for economic reasons does not offer any reassurance that this Government has reached a turning point in its approach to bovineTB. What it should do is draw a line under any consideration of a badger cull.
“We continue to press the Government to demonstrate much greater commitment to badger vaccination and shall continue to push the EU to change the rules to allow a cattle vaccine to be deployed, once development is complete. Now is the time for all parties to throw their weight behind cattle-to-cattle control measures, vaccine development and deployment and improved biosecurity to deal with bovineTB.”
Twelve Wildlife Trusts are working on badger vaccination programmes including Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. GWT’s 2011 programme was the first of its kind in the UK to be undertaken by a voluntary organisation. The Trust ran the programme at seven sites, including a dairy farm and covering a total of 170 hectares. Initial results regarding the practicalities of vaccination demonstrate it to be an affordable and viable alternative to culling.
The Wildlife Trusts strongly urge the farming community, conservation organisations and the Government to continue to work together to confront this disease through the following measures:
- Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm.
- Badger vaccination: Support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine. We also urge Defra to develop a comprehensive vaccination strategy and continue development of an oral badger vaccine.
- Cattle vaccine: Complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure change to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment.
As forecast at the start of 2012, the proposed cull of badgers moved a step closer towards becoming a reality in mid-September when the government issued the first licence to allow the shooting of badgers on 300 farms in Gloucestershire, aimed at paving the way for more widespread culls in an attempt to combat bovine TB (bTB), a disease affecting both cattle and badgers.
The decision caused another amazing groundswell of opinion and disapproval in the media with conservation groups and eminent scientists, not to mention, two of our patrons, TV presenters and naturalists Chris Packham and Bill Oddie speaking out.
As with the proposed buzzard cull earlier in 2012, our dedicated Trust members contacted their MPs, tweeted their comments and signed the online petitions in support of this wonderful, quirky mammal.
On Tuesday 23 October the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, announced the Government’s decision to delay the badger cull until 2013.
As wildlife protectors, we don’t want a postponement, we want the cull cancelled altogether and will be strongly urging ministers to use this time to focus on, and plan, a comprehensive vaccination strategy.
We all still have a chance to push the government to go further and are urging everybody to add their voices to the nationwide campaign to stop the badger cull.
Please show your support, by signing the online petitions; visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257 and http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/badgers-petition to add your voice to the growing groundswell of public opinion. By Wednesday 24 October, 239,927 people had signed the online petitions, making it the biggest online campaign ever.
Also, if you have not yet written to your MP, now would be a great time to do so; log on at https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-badger-cull where there is an email letter and suggested wording should you wish to print and post a letter. Between Monday 22 and Wednesday 23 October, over 10,000 people contacted their MPs via the 38 Degrees website.