The badger cull has no sound scientific, economic or moral basis

September 18, 2012 3:00 pm

As a proud member of the Forest of Dean community, a tax payer, and someone who lives in the country and is both concerned about the problems of dairy farmers including the prevalence of TB and about our wildlife, I am angry by the government’s decision to begin the pilot to cull badgers in West Gloucestershire.

TB is a terrible disease which results in the slaughter of cows and has a serious impact on a farm’s profitability and viability. It must be dealt with, but why don’t Ministers follow the scientific advice rather than embarking on an ineffective, costly cull that will decimate our badger population?

The cull has no sound scientific, economic or moral basis. Leading scientists and experts are against it, many farmers are against it, and international conservation organisations are against it. As also is my Party, which commissioned the largest scientific project into the effects: the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. So why is the government pressing ahead with the free shooting of moving badgers – something that has never been trialled?

Killing badgers has no proven lasting effect on the eradication of TB. A cull could lead to the spread of the disease as badgers flee the cull zones into surrounding farmland. In response to a Parliamentary Question from my friend and colleague, Mary Creagh MP, DEFRA conceded that at least 50% of cattle herd breakdowns are caused by cattle to cattle contact.

We are told that approval for a vaccine for cattle is imminent but we know that there is a problem in relation to the European Union. I am a firm supporter of the EU but I recognise that it needs real reform and that some of its policies need challenging. This is one of them. The government should be in Brussels arguing for the vaccination of cattle not slaughtering badgers. There is also vaccine for badgers which is being used in Gloucestershire and which seems to be effective, although it can only be part of the solution.

Last Friday evening I attended an excellent, packed meeting in the Forest of Dean organised by Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS). One of the speakers had spent his life as a livestock manager and he spoke of the need for biosecurity and improved animal husbandry. It made sense.  Why aren’t Ministers listening to him along with scientists like Lord Krebs, one of the government’s most respected advisers?

We are told that that this is just a pilot and that more scientific work is being done. The pilot will be deemed to be a success if more than 70% of badgers in the area are eradicated. But who can say how many badgers there are in an area and how will DEFRA know when 70% have been killed?

For most people who live in the Forest, this is not just a pilot. It will decimate our badger population, it will be costly, and it will be potentially dangerous to citizens walking in or around the Forest at night. Most importantly, it will not provide a much needed solution to the problem of TB which leads to the slaughter of cows and penury for farmers. It will also be a burden on our hard pressed police force which will have to find around £2m to police the cull.

The Forest of Dean District Council this week, on the initiative of the Labour Group, has a special meeting to discuss the cull where I hope they resolve that no badgers should be shot on council land. I would urge all local authorities in pilot areas to do likewise, I am sure that the vast majority of people whom they represent will be against this crazy cull.

I would also urge all those who share my concern to look at the Team Badger website and to sign the e-petition on the Downing Street website to ensure, at the very least, that there is a proper debate at Parliament.

Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour’s Leader in the Lords and lives in the Forest of Dean. This post was first published at the Labour Lords blog

  • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

    This cull is like an atavistic eruption – things aren’t going well so we’ll kill/sacrifice something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.crowder2 Jim Crowder

    If we hadn’t let things get out of control, there would have been no need to even consider this. However, for a variety of reasons, Bovine TB a was allowed to increase. 

    The first question should be “Do we want to control Bovine TB at all?” If the answer is yes, then the different interest groups should show how their preferred solution works, not just shout at the other solutions.

  • Serbitar

    The only real long-term solution is vaccination of both badgers and cattle. Rabies has largely been eliminated in France after orally immunising foxes and other relevant wildlife with recombinant rabies vaccine (V-RG) aerially distributed in bait form. Much more research into similar techniques as far as badgers go is urgently warranted which, coupled with some form of licensing to inoculate cattle against bovine TB, would rid the United Kingdom of this scourge permanently and non-destructively.

    A cull of 70% of the badger population, mostly healthy animals, is inhumane, unscientific and possibly counter-productive. (How will the shooters carrying out culls going to know when to stop? How can they possibly know when seven out of ten badgers in any given area and no more have been slaughtered?) In some areas where culls have taken place bovine TB spread faster. The proposed culls are disgraceful reactions to a terrible problem that can only be solved by the application of science not by the bullet and the gun.

  • Pingback: Environmation Saturation | Ecological Pie

Latest

  • Comment What will Labour do about this deadly epidemic?

    What will Labour do about this deadly epidemic?

    There’s an epidemic sweeping the world. It destroys families, snuffs out hope and opportunity and hurts those who least deserve a painful death. I’m not talking about Ebola (though that’s an unspeakably horrifying plague), nor am I talking about Malaria or TB (both of which cause a death toll that dwarves Ebola every single year). I’m talking about something that kills every five minutes. Violence against children. Unicef UK have a new report out today (“Children in Danger”) that highlights […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The UKIP Calypso should be number one

    The UKIP Calypso should be number one

    On the 1st March 1945, a reggae legend was born. Two years later, on the 1st March 1947, Mike Read was born. Unfortunately, a birthday is no longer the only thing that connects Mike Read and multiple Grammy-winner Burning Spear. They are now both purveyors of politically charged Afro-Carribean songs about independence. By now, you should all be aware of the new UKIP single. Sung by former Radio One disc jockey Mike Read, it is a rare foray by the […]

    Read more →
  • News What does the new Shadow Europe Minister mean for Labour’s position on free movement

    What does the new Shadow Europe Minister mean for Labour’s position on free movement

    The biggest story of last night’s mini-reshuffle was the return of Pat McFadden to Labour’s frontbenches, as Shadow Europe Minister, four years after he left his post at Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills. While much has been made of his Blairite credentials, what may be more interesting is his position on free movement within the EU. The Labour Party has been talking a lot about “fair movement, not free movement” in the EU – most recently Shadow Immigration minister Dave […]

    Read more →
  • Featured If you care about the rise of Ukip, go to Rochester and Strood

    If you care about the rise of Ukip, go to Rochester and Strood

    If you care about the rise of UKIP’s populist right-wing politics and you want to do something to stop it now, there is one place you need to make a trip to and campaign for Labour between now and 20 November: Rochester & Strood. Polling guru Mike Smithson has said it “will have a dramatic affect on the political environment in the six months to the May 7th general election.” He’s thinking of the impact between UKIP and the Tories, […]

    Read more →
  • News McFadden rejoins Labour front bench as Europe Minister in (mini) Labour reshuffle

    McFadden rejoins Labour front bench as Europe Minister in (mini) Labour reshuffle

    Update: Pat McFadden becomes Shadow Europe Minister, replacing Gareth Thomas. Thomas moves within the Shadow FCO team to become Shadow Minister for North Africa and the Middle East. Ian Lucas moves from Foreign Affairs to Defence – he’ll be covering international security strategy. And last but not least, Yvonne Fovargue moves from Defence to Education replacing Rushanara Ali as Shadow Minister for Young People. That means McFadden is the one new recruit for Miliband’s front bench, speaking this evening, he said: “I’m […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y