It’s excellent news for most of the badger population of England.
Plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across England have been dropped by the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, after an independent report found the shoots were not effective or humane. The pilot programs were run in Gloucestershire and Somerset in an effort to stop the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis among cattle, and the environment department’s original plan was to announce up to 10 new cull areas each year.
“This disease is the most pressing animal health problem in the UK,” Paterson said, noting that 26,600 cattle were slaughtered in 2013 and that the disease had cost taxpayers £500m in the past decade. But he accepted that “on effectiveness … the culls did not make as much progress as we hoped.”
He didn’t have much choice after the British government voted last week to abandon extending badger culls to other areas this year to reduce TB in cattle. The vote was 219 in favor, and one against.
Thank you, Care2 activists! There has been a huge outcry from animal lovers worldwide in protest at this cruel cull, and Care2′s petition demanding an end to the badger killings garnered almost 21,000 signatures, not to mention the signatures on another Care2 member-created petition.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ministers evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the two pilot programs.
Their report, published last Thursday, reveals that the pilot culls failed on a much bigger scale than previously thought. Estimates of the proportion of badgers killed within the initial six-week limit found that fewer than 39 percent of those in Gloucestershire had been shot and fewer than 48 percent in Somerset – far short of the 70 percent minimum. This in spite of the fact that contracted marksmen, paid for by farming groups, were employed to shoot the animals at night.
So those badgers are pretty wily, and many managed to evade their would-be killers.
Tragically, many of those who were not so lucky suffered horribly.
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 TB. How well did this work?
The report found it was “extremely likely” that between 7.4 percent and 22.8 percent of badgers were still alive after five minutes and therefore at risk of “experiencing marked pain,” above the 5 percent maximum allowed. The experts also concluded that fewer than half the badgers were shot in the recommended target area.
In other words, the badger culls failed on all fronts, which is why they are not being rolled out nationwide.
Existing Pilot Badger Culls to Continue
Now for the bad news.
Mystifyingly, in spite of the fact that this report on last year’s pilot badger culls has concluded that they were not effective, they are nevertheless set to continue this year with improvements recommended by the IEP, including more and better-trained marksmen.
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.
And yet the culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset will continue.
Gas Them All
According to the League Against Cruel Sports, the British government is even considering gassing badgers, a practice that was banned in 1982 because it’s considered inhumane.
That’s not enough to stop Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, who chose this week to call for an end to a ban on gassing badgers. According to the Princess Royal, as she is known, gassing the badgers is the most humane way of tackling the rise of tuberculosis in cattle.
Such a model of kindness coming from the Royal Family.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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