Two controversial badger culls have been labeled as failures and have finally been stopped after it became clear that those going after them wouldn’t be able to kill enough badgers to meet their targets. While this has led to relief among animal advocates, it also raises concerns that what was done will make things worse.
The pilot programs were run in Gloustershire and Somerset in an effort to stop the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) among cattle, but killing badgers to solve the problem has caused controversy among scientists, farmers, the government and animal advocates.
The programs were designed to see whether or not shooting free-running badgers at night, as opposed to trapping them, would help stop the spread of bTB. Scientists and animal advocacy groups — including the Badger Trust, Humane Society International/UK, RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, among others — have all come out strongly opposing using badgers as scapegoats for a problem affecting cattle.
Concerns weren’t only raised about the cruelty inherent in shooting badgers and about the possibility of leaving many wounded to die slowly from their injuries, but also about whether or not it would even be effective.
According to one significant study, the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.” It also concluded that weak testing for cattle keep them contributing significantly to the problem and that, “Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.”
Unfortunately, science wasn’t enough to stop the culls from starting. Last month, Natural England granted an eight-week extension to the cull in Gloustershire after marksmen failed to meet the their target goal of 70 percent of the population, but the whole thing was shut down after they failed to meet even the reduced goal during the extension.
The cull in Somerset also failed to meet its target, despite a three-week extension there. According to the Telegraph, Natural England said the cull was ended because there is “no realistic prospect of the cull removing the number of badgers required by the licence.”
While the cruelty and effectiveness were questioned to begin with, the failure to meet the target goal in the set time period raises serious questions about where all of these troublesome badgers are and about the governments ability to run these programs effectively and humanely.
Not only have millions been spent to senselessly kill hundreds of badgers, but many are now concerned that the badgers who were left will disperse and potentially spread the disease to new areas, while others will move in to fill their place, which will both cause more problems.
“I am much relieved the government’s badger cull fiasco is finally over, for the time being at least. We hope the government will now do the decent thing and admit that killing badgers to control TB in cattle is a ludicrous and inhumane idea,” Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, told the Guardian.
According to the League Against Cruel Sports, even though the culls have ended, the government is still planning on running them for the next three years and starting them in other areas. The organization also raised concerns about findings that the government is considering gassing them, even though that was banned in 1982 because it’s considered inhumane.
Please sign and share the petition urging the government to stop needlessly killing badgers and use common sense to deal with the spread of bTB.
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