Despite strenuous on-going efforts to halt the Government’s badger cull, through lobbying nationally and within Somerset, the cull started on the evening of August 26 and ran for six weeks in west Somerset.
We are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB causes our farming community. However science clearly shows that a badger cull is not the solution to bovine TB and, in fact, the shooting of badgers could make the problem worse here in Somerset.
The Wildlife Trusts strongly oppose the pilot badger culls and any proposals for rolling out culls beyond this year. We will not permit any culling of badgers on our land.
Somerset Wildlife Trust consider that the cull is a distraction and gets in the way of implementing the right mechanisms to control this disease through improved biosecurity and the roll out of cattle and badger vaccines - a view shared by many landowners here in Somerset.
Considering the evidence
The Wildlife Trusts have considered the evidence and issues related to the role of badgers in transmitting bovine TB over many years and urge Defra to prioritise badger vaccination programmes and the development of a cattle vaccine. It should also divert the estimated £6 million costs of licensing, monitoring and policing the pilot culls into a major programme of badger vaccination.
13 Wildlife Trusts (including Somerset Wildlife Trust) are vaccinating or running fundraising campaigns for vaccination programmes. Recent studies have shown that vaccinating just one third of uninfected badgers in an active sett can help make unvaccinated cubs less likely to test positive for the disease.
Scientific research funded by the Government has shown conclusively that badger culling could be counterproductive. Large-scale badger culling trials show an initial worsening of the disease due to perturbation. Over the longer term, there may be a positive impact of a 12-16% reduction of bovine TB in cattle, but this still leaves at least 84% of the problem. Lord Krebs, who designed a previous trial, on behalf of the Government, concluded that “culling is not a viable policy option”.
The problem is bovine TB (not badgers): The challenge is to control the disease. There is no single quick, cheap and effective fix. We recognise the seriousness of the situation for farmers but the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find a long-term solution.
Tackling the disease: should include the following measures:
· Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm.
· Badger vaccination: Support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine. We also urge Defra to continue development of an oral badger vaccine.
· Cattle vaccine: Complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure change to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment.
Read The Wildlife Trusts' response to the DEFRA consultation on a draft strategy to manage bTB in Britain (submitted Sept 27 2013)