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A case of foot in mouth for Defra as their own evidence reveals true cause of bTB outbreak

Statistics released today by Defra in a bid to explain why the badger cull must go ahead in fact revealed the true cause of the bTB outbreak that they are trying to stop, say Care for the Wild.

Figures show that incidences of bTB soared in 2000/2001, in certain areas. This correlates almost exactly with the relaxation of movement controls after the Foot and Mouth epidemic, which saw large numbers of herds restocked from the UK and across Europe.

Philip Mansbridge, Care for the Wild CEO, said: “It’s not been a good day for advocates of the badger cull. First, Lord Krebs, the leading expert on bTB, repeated his belief that a cull is ‘crazy’. Then Defra themselves give detailed evidence as to why they are culling – but close examination shows that badgers clearly are not to blame for this outbreak – it was the influx of untested cattle after the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

“There’s an increasing air of Emperor’s New Clothes about this badger cull. Defra desperately want people to believe that it will work, and that it is scientifically valid – but it won’t and it isn’t. The science says that at best it’ll reduce bTB by 16% after nine years – that simply is not enough to justify slaughtering 8 out of 10 badgers in this country.

“The government claim to be doing this for farmers, but if they really wanted to help the farmers, they’d be focussing on getting bTB testing, biosecurity and husbandry techniques sorted out, and they’d be focussing on the actual long-term solutions like vaccination. If farming is in dire straits now, it’s because governments haven’t put the resources into the right places over the last few years – it’s not because of the badgers.

It was also confirmed that in some areas, those culling the badgers could choose to trap-and-shoot, rather than free-shoot. But this also makes no sense, says Philip Mansbridge.

“If they’re switching to trapping and shooting, they might as well take the obvious next step and switch to trapping and vaccinating. The government’s own figures show that trapping and shooting is actually more expensive than trapping and vaccinating. Plus, their own research shows that vaccination can halve incidents of bTB in badgers. How much more evidence do they need?

“Bottom line, if you’re going to catch the badgers, then why not vaccinate? Scientifically it makes sense, morally it makes sense. And if the government claims that they’re not in a position to effectively vaccinate yet, that’s because when they got in they scrapped five out of six vaccination research projects. Being obsessed with culling, for political reasons, is a no-win policy which will end with both the badgers and the farmers losing out big time.”

Based on Defra figures(1), the cost for trapping and shooting badgers is £2,500 per square kilometre a year, compared to £2,250 for trapping and vaccinating. While the cost of shooting will reduce slightly each year, dependant on the reduced number of badgers, the cost of policing must also be taken into account: around £500,000 pa is estimated for policing if badgers are being shot – this is likely to be significantly reduced if no protester action is taking place.

In December last year, government-backed research(2) revealed that vaccinating badgers can reduce the level of bTB within an infected colony by 54%. Further, that unvaccinated young badgers within the same social group as the vaccinated adults showed a reduction in risk to bTB of nearly 80% – showing that vaccination has a knock-on positive effect within the sett.

Philip Mansbridge added: “Incidentally, while this announcement was being made, Owen Patterson has been busy discussing international wildlife poaching at Clarence House. While any action he takes on that issue is commendable, it’s ironic that he’s focussing on saving elephants in Africa, while at the same time promising to slaughter thousands of badgers in his own back yard.”

Care for the Wild is supporting the national march against the badger cull in London on June 1st.

Care for the Wild is a charity based in Sussex dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the UK and abroad. For more information or if you would like to support our work, see www.careforthewild.com.

What do you think? Have your say below…and further developments in the story here

 

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