16 October 2012
18 SEPTEMBER 2012
The Green Party strongly opposes the new badger-cull pilots on the basis of the scientific evidence and significant animal-welfare, public-safety and ethical concerns.
The scientific evidence is clear: the Randomised Badger-Culling Trial (RBCT), a large-scale trial of culling, concluded that 'badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB.'
It also concluded that other approaches to culling would at best give only slightly better results and at worst have a detrimental effect.
Caroline Allen, veterinary surgeon and Green Party Spokesperson on animal issues, said, "I completely understand the distress this issue causes to farmers and that TB is a serious disease of cattle. However the feeling of frustration and wanting to ‘do something’ must not mean we disregard the facts and ethical considerations. The current plan is a dangerous one."
The RBCT report concluded that substantial reductions in the incidence of TB in cattle could be achieved by improving cattle-based control measures. These measures must be the focus of funding and research, not another culling ‘trial’. It is also very unfortunate that the Government has chosen to reduce the funding of badger-vaccination trials.
In order for a cull to have any hope of ‘success’ a massive area, 150mk2, needs to be covered, it must be sustained for at least four years and at least 70% of the land area must be accessible.
Allen added, "This is a massive undertaking and there are so many ways in which this cull could go wrong. The ‘perturbation effect’ is likely to result in the incidence of TB actually increasing. When you bear in mind that the measure of success is a reduction in TB of around 15%, i.e. leaving 85% of the disease untouched, this all seems completely nonsensical."
Whilst the Government has pledged that it will take measures to ensure the cull is carried out humanely and with high regard to animal welfare, the anatomy of the badger means that the method chosen - free shooting - is simply not appropriate, since it carries a very high risk of leaving badgers wounded and in pain. In addition there is a risk to people of injury and even death from the use of firearms at night to carry out the cull.
Caroline said, "Even if there were a better chance of success I don’t believe it is ethically right to be attempting almost to clear an indigenous species from large tracts of our countryside. Sadly the badger has become the scapegoat for this disease. I call on the Government and Defra to wake up and show some leadership and deal with other aspects of disease transmission, including cattle-to-cattle transmission. Then we may start to make some progress against this disease and the distress it causes to farmers and their herds."