If it moves, cull it

A report in The Sunday Times (Badger cull goes national to fury of animal campaigners, Jonathan Leake, 27/5/2018) described how “farmers will be allowed to kill badgers across England with a bounty of up to £50 for each corpse” after environment secretary Michael Gove ruled that culling will now be permitted in ‘low-risk’ areas wherever there is an outbreak of bovine TB (bTB). More than 19,200 badgers were killed in 2017 in a misguided and cruel attempt to limit the spread of bTB.  According to the Badger Trust: “The vast majority of these badgers (over 85%) are likely to (have been) perfectly healthy and TB free and there is little evidence that the tiny proportion that are TB infected pose any major risk of disease transmission to badgers or cattle.” Indeed, the number of cattle slaughtered after testing positive for bTB has risen year on year since the badger cull began.  As the Zoological Society of London recognized in a response to the proposals, the Government ruling: “ignores all the evidence that … culling has been consistently linked to increased (incidence of) cattle TB” (their emphasis).

The Government’s plans now face a High Court challenge in a judicial review being taken by the ecologist Tom Langton, supported by the Badger Trust, and the Oxfordshire Badger Group website (https://www.oxonbadgergroup.org.uk/) contains suggestions of what you can do to help.  You can also sign a petition against the cull started by the ecologist and teacher of agriculture and environmental science Lee Jenkins on the Change.org website (https://www.change.org/p/michael-gove-stop-the-nationwide-cull-of-badgers; with thanks to Jane Magpie for the link).  As Mr Jenkins points out: “Vaccinations would be a far more ethical way of stopping (bovine) TB, along with increased hygiene measures in farms” (the Sunday Times article recognises that “bovine TB is a livestock disease spread mainly by farmers moving infected cattle between farms”).

As if killing even more badgers wasn’t enough, licenses have now been issued to farmers in several counties, including Berkshire and Wiltshire, to shoot ravens, even though the birds are legally protected and rare, with only 7,400 pairs across the UK (Michael Gove allows farmers to cull protected ravens, The Sunday Times, 17/6/2018).  The excuse for this measure is that ravens “can attack lambs and sheep”, with one farmer in Dorset claiming that ravens “were killing a couple of lambs a day and blinding one or two sheep a week” on his farm on Dorset.  No wonder, with a reported 9000 sheep to look after!  Even so, it seems much more likely that the ravens were pecking out the eyes and tongues of dead sheep, which are a whole lot easier to ‘attack’ than live animals, but you know the score by now.  Whenever farmers claim that wild animals are spreading disease or attacking their livestock the Government roll over and authorise another cull.

Paul Appleby (with thanks to Paul Freestone for alerting me to The Sunday Times articles)

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