Badger Update – July 2011

BadgerSignificant steps have been taken on the bovine TB issue since the last edition of this e-newsletter.

The Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths, made a statement to the Welsh Government on 21 June.

He used his statement to announce a postponement of plans to cull badgers, pending an independent, scientific review of the evidence. You can watch the statement and following questions on the BBC website

The Minister announced that the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Harries, would appoint the panel that would undertake this review, and that they would be tasked with a full review of the evidence for eradicating bovine TB. The panel is expected to report in the autumn, and no culling will take place while the review is in progress.

Reactions to the announcement were instant, and divided, with farming unions and many ministers accusing the Welsh Government of kicking the issue into the long grass. However The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is obviously pleased with this approach, since we continue to argue that the available evidence supports vaccination as the most sustainable long term strategy to fight the disease.

An independent scientific review will allow the panel to study fully the most recent evidence from vaccination trials and the most up to date data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial areas. A great deal more evidence is available today than was published at the time the current policy was developed, and this review offers an opportunity for a genuinely independent assessment of the best way forward.

Other opponents of culling such as the Badger Trust, and Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, who are pro-vaccination, also welcomed the review. The Badger Trust said it is ‘determined to take whatever legal steps are required to safeguard this protected species against unjustified slaughter’ and ‘now hopes that the proposed judicial review challenge can be avoided’.

Since the announcement, Lord Krebs- a former Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, and the man responsible for the scientific review that identified badgers as a reservoir of bovine TB, has been quoted in the Guardian speaking strongly against badger culling. He has argued that the evidence generated by the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, which he recommended should take place, did not support a cull.

He said, "you cull intensively for at least four years, you will have a net benefit of reducing TB in cattle of 12% to 16%. So you leave 85% of the problem still there, having gone to a huge amount of trouble to kill a huge number of badgers. It doesn't seem to be an effective way of controlling the disease."

If you wish to get involved while the review is taking place, keep an eye on your local and national newspapers, and respond to stories and letters you see there.

With an announcement also expected soon on a bovine TB strategy for England, media interest has been picking up again, with some unhelpful pigeonholing of both pro- and anti- cull groups, and too little discussion of the complex science we know underpins this debate.

We know from recent polls that two thirds of the British Public oppose culling, and that they come from both urban and rural backgrounds. So please help us get the message across, and find a more sustainable solution to bovine TB than badger culling.

For more information, contact Lizzie Wilberforce