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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

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


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

  1. Sam May 28, 2013 at 21:38

    National march against the badger cull central London June 1st.
    Sign the online petition.

  2. Pearl Lewis May 28, 2013 at 09:30

    Bovine TB is a dreadful problem but culling healthy animals against the scientific evidence is no solution. The only answer in the long term has got be immunization. Devote our limited resources to finding an effective vaccine and cancel this pointless, misguided and divisive cull.

  3. Honesty May 27, 2013 at 19:11

    At last THE TRUTH – Thankyou for printing this as I had given up all hope of ever hearing sense from DEFRA !

    STOP the lies, STOP the cull and START listening to the science.

  4. Administrator May 27, 2013 at 18:39

    This item has certainly highlighted peoples passions regarding the the badger culling strategy. Some very valid comments here – DEFRA are you listening? Keep up the discussion!

  5. Cristina Parker May 27, 2013 at 18:24

    This fiasco has turned into a public relations disaster for Defra, Natural England, the dairy industry and farmers. Policing costs are now estimated at 4 million.

    There has been so much propaganda from Defra and the NFU regarding this ‘epidemic’. The following is from Defra’s files which shows very clearly what happened in 2001. It also shows that far from being an increasing epidemic, it is actually very stable, showing a residual infection in the herds

    Protesters are so angry because they know there is no justification for this slaughter and the nightmare the industry will face when dead and dying badgers and their young are filmed and tweeted, I’ll leave you to imagine.

    There may well be another reason for wanting to kill badgers but it certainly isn’t bTB. It makes no economic or scientific sense at all.

  6. Laura Wilmot May 24, 2013 at 08:53

    Humans have no right to cull any other species on this Earth,seeing as it’s because of human intervention, that the balance has been upset in the first place.
    I’m with Sue Peters on this one…Culling landowners is a much better idea!

  7. Nessa May 23, 2013 at 23:44

    There’s many who believe starlings spread Bovine TB. It makes sense.
    Wonder what outcry there’d be if we culled starlings!

  8. NMac May 23, 2013 at 16:17

    A long tome ago now it was leaked that a senior politician (the wealthy, but not very bright, Paterson), said to a leading scientist, Professor John Bourne, “Fine John, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers.”

    Proof that Paterson isn’t interested in the scientific arguments or the fact that slaughter will make the problem of bTB worse, this is all about political dogma and the Nasty Tory Party looking after the landowners. Its as simple as that.

  9. Sue Peters May 23, 2013 at 16:00

    I like the idea of “culling landowners!”

  10. Clued-Up May 22, 2013 at 10:17

    The costs of policing peaceful anti – cullers walking the footpaths on one day at the Forhampton Estate (? spelling) alone was £62,000. At that rate, the whole of DEFRA’s policing budget for the entire 4 years of the cull wil be exhausted in less than 5 weeks of the first year of the cull … The money may well be used up more quickly than that.

    DEFRA MAY be allowed to switch money from its other farming support budgets to meet the additional costs -but it probably can’t find enough extra money even if it decimates those budgets.

    If the badger cull starts the most likely consequence is that DEFRA-funded policing will be pulled some weeks afterwards, leaving the county Police Services to fill the gap from their own stretched resources. Given the hard choice of protecting the general public against ordinary crime (assaults, thefts and the like) or providing a private security force to culling landowners, they may well feel the higher priority is safeguarding ordinary citizens.


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