The temporary reprieve on badger culls in England was indeed only temporary.
UK Environment Secretary Owen Patterson has announced that pilot badger culls in the western counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire, which will see the killing of 70 percent of the badgers in each area, will go ahead this summer after all, and that a third one, in the county of Dorset, will be prepared as a reserve.
This news is terribly sad. I grew up in the west of England, and badgers are a natural and delightful part of the environment.
Farmers will be allowed to shoot up to 5,094 badgers in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset over a four-year period as a result of this cull. Let’s at least hope that these farmers are all excellent shots, and don’t leave those badgers to die a painful, drawn-out death.
The two pilot culls were delayed last year in the face of bad weather and the discovery that the number of badgers in the pilot areas had been vastly underestimated.
Paterson made his announcement in Birmingham at the annual conference of the National Farmers’ Union, possibly the only group of people in the country that support this horrendous idea. A vote in the House of Commons decided against pursuing these killings, and 167,000 people, including Care2 activists, have signed petitions deploring the culls.
Why do so many badgers have to die?
According to Paterson, tackling bovine TB has cost the government £500 million in the past 10 years, and those costs could reach £1 billion over the next decade if the disease is left unchecked. Paterson believes that culling badgers, which can transmit TB to cattle, could reduce the levels of the disease in herds.
From The Telegraph:
Mr Paterson said: ”Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry. ”
He said Natural England issued authorisation letters which confirmed culling could proceed this summer, as an important step towards taking the action needed to tackle the spread of TB in wildlife.
“I am determined that there are no further delays this year. That is why we have taken the sensible step with the farming industry to elect a reserve area that can be called upon should anything happen to prevent culling in Somerset or Gloucester.”
Naturally, National Farmers’ Union president Peter Kendall agreed with the Environment Minister, applauding him for working to ensure that the pilots would go into operation this summer, and that there would be a full roll-out of the cull next year.
How do other Brits feel about murdering badgers?
A reported 92 percent of the British public hates the idea of killing badgers.
The move was strongly criticized by the shadow Labor Party, which has consistently opposed a badger cull.
Even worse, animal experts believe that these culls will do nothing to alleviate bovine TB.
From The Guardian:
More than 30 eminent animal disease experts describe the cull as a “costly distraction” that risks making the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse and that will cost far more than it saves.
TB in English cattle is an increasing problem, with the 26,000 infected animals slaughtered in 2011 costing £90m in compensation. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, argues that more than a decade of research shows that culling badgers, which can carry bovine TB, could reduce infections by 12%-16% if undertaken intensively for many years and over large areas.
However, the scientists reject the idea of scientific support for the cull, which could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population. The cull policy is “mindless”, according to Lord John Krebs, one of the UK’s most eminent scientists and the architect of the landmark 10-year culling trials that ended in 2007. “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.”
This is a tragedy for Britain’s wildlife. It’s not going to get rid of bovine TB, but it will decimate badger populations over parts of England, cause much suffering to these adorable animals, and could lead to their disappearance in some areas.
Opponents of the badger cull have promised to continue their action, with new protests already under way. If you agree that this is a disastrous and cruel policy, please sign our petition, asking Prime Minister David Cameron not to pursue badger culls.
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