Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

UK Badger Cull

22 December 2017

Categories: Homepage News, UK Wildlife News

Born Free calls for urgent policy review after 20,000 more badgers slaughtered

On Thursday 21st December the Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that 19,274 badgers were shot under license in 19 cull zones across parts of Cornwall, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire during 2017.

This brings the total number of animals killed under the Government’s badger control policy since 2013 to almost 35,000, with additional ‘supplementary culling’ carried out this year in the original ‘pilot zones’ in Gloucestershire and Somerset still to be reported.

Born Free’s Associate Director Mark Jones, who is also a vet, said: “This government and its veterinary advisers are sanctioning the cruel massacre of one of our few remaining iconic mammals, without a scrap of evidence that it will prevent the spread of bovine TB among cattle.”

More than 60% of this year’s victims were killed by ‘controlled shooting’ a method that the Government’s own expert panel found to be inhumane four years ago that has subsequently been condemned by the British Veterinary Association. Natural England monitored just 74 instances (just over 0.6%) of ‘controlled shooting’ for accuracy and humaneness. The government’s chief vet has consistently ignored the opinion and advice of his peers, relying instead on his personal opinion that shooting free-roaming badgers carries similar animal welfare risks as other types of shooting.

Jones continued: “Not only has the government licensed a massive increase in the killing; it has also cynically manipulated cull targets to enable the cull companies to claim that their operations have been ‘successful’, and reduced independent monitoring to pitiful levels leaving shooters to carry on as they please. The continued use of ‘controlled shooting’ goes against expert and veterinary advice which DEFRA’s chief vet has consistently chosen to ignore, instead condemning thousands of animals to a potentially cruel fate on the basis of his personal opinion. There has also been no consideration of the welfare impacts of the killing on surviving badgers, whose families and communities will have been disrupted and destroyed. I have no doubt that many thousands of animals will have suffered considerably as a result.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been quoted as saying that he wants to ‘enhance environmental and animal welfare standards’. A few days before the badger cull figures were announced, he published a draft bill which aims to embed the principle that animals are sentient beings into UK law, and contains an obligation on government to pay regard to the welfare needs of animals when formulating and implementing government policy.

Jones concluded: “DEFRA’s current plan to achieve bovine TB-Free status across England by 2038 will involve the killing of thousands more animals, both domestic and wild, at huge public expense. In 21st century Britain we have to come up with more progressive, humane and publicly acceptable ways of dealing with problems like bovine TB. If we carry on as we are, we could see badgers disappear from huge swathes of the country where they have lived for thousands of years. This cannot be acceptable. If Mr Gove’s statements and his draft animal welfare and sentience bill are to be meaningful, he must surely announce an immediate cessation of further badger culling and a full review of the Government’s bovine TB control policy, with a view to introducing a more progressive, animal welfare-centred strategy for dealing with this problem of the livestock industry’s own making.”

Born Free will continue to urge the government and veterinary bodies to end the culling of badgers.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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