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Badger Trust Condemns Continued Culling as “Completely Irrational’

The Badger Trust has condemned the government’s decision to continue with the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset as ‘completely irrational’.

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“These culls were sold to the public as an experiment to see if free-shooting badgers was humane and effective,” says the Badger Trust’s CEO, Dominic Dyer, “and on both counts they have comprehensively failed.”

The government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) and now the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have condemned free shooting as ‘inhumane’ . There was a failure to achieve the minimum number of badgers killed in either annual cull in Gloucestershire and in Somerset the second year of culling achieved a much reduced target figure.

“However, the real scandal is that the vast majority of culled badgers will not have had Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB),” continues Dominic Dyer. “The government has insisted that none of them are tested for the disease either before or after they are killed. This means the culling method is not only ‘blind’ but also that there is no way of ever knowing if it has worked.

“Defra’s own data suggest that while 15% of badgers may test positive for bTB, just 1.6% of them are capable of passing on the disease. This means 98.4% pose no risk whatsoever to cattle and 85% are likely to be completely bTB free. Trying to control bTB in cattle by culling badgers that don’t have bTB doesn’t make any sense.”

Two of the UK’s leading naturalists and broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall have joined with the Badger Trust to condemn the government’s decision. “Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea,” says Steve Backshall, whilst Chris Packham has said, “There are plenty of reasons to oppose the culling of badgers but underpinning them all is the fact that the science says, indeed all the scientists say, that it’s the wrong thing to do”.

“The government and the farming lobby are continuing to play the badger blame game in order to mask their failure to properly control this disease,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin, “the Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers”.

The Badger Trust is urging the government to adopt the same approach in England and also to consider the economics of the cull. “Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million,” continues Peter Martin, “it’s the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. And to what effect? Culling badgers costs ten times more than vaccinating them”.

“To cap it all,” concludes Dominic Dyer, “Defra’s latest figures [1] show TB incidents in and around the cull zones are actually increasing. This was predicted not just by the scientists but was also highlighted as a serious concern in the government’s own risk assessments. Taking all these factors into consideration, their decision to carry on culling badgers is completely irrational”.

“DEFRA’s December 2011 policy on badger culling confirmed that it will be necessary to undertake a further cost/benefit analysis before rolling out culling beyond the two pilot areas (paragraph 4.18):
‘Culling in two pilot areas will enable us to test our and the farming industry’s cost assumptions for elements of the policy where there is currently uncertainty. Alongside the outcome of the evaluation of culling in the pilot areas (see paragraph 6.1), this will also inform our decision on wider roll-out of the policy.’

“As far as we are aware, no such cost/benefit analysis has yet been undertaken, and it is not clear how it could be undertaken until the conclusion of the pilot culls.

“The decision to extend the badger cull to Dorset in particular has no scientific justification as the County has seen one of the largest declines in bTB rates in England with a 37.25% drop between 2012 to 2014 without killing any badgers.”

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Rabbit rights call could get second hearing next month

Campaigners hope a petition calling for greater legal protection for pet rabbits will get a second hearing in Holyrood next month.

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Rabbits Require Rights Scotland‘s 2,044-name petition was first discussed by MSPs earlier this year. It calls for rabbits to be given the same protection as cats and dogs as well as regulations on breeding and the minimum size of housing. Earlier this month, it emerged hundreds of pet rabbits have been abandoned.

The Scottish SPCA said it rescued 728 rabbits in 2014 and had taken 550 into care so far this year.

Rabbits Require Rights Scotland described rabbits as the “UK’s most neglected pet”. A spokeswoman said: “As the law currently stands there are no enforceable welfare protection available to rabbits. They are too easily sold and too easily discarded. For want of a better word, they are sold like sweeties.”

The spokeswoman added: “We will return to parliament for the second hearing of our petition sometime in September or October when the new session dates are announced. We’ve had some good feedback from other welfare bodies in support of our aims, so it is hoped that some level of the improvements we have called for will be addressed.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-34064391

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Plan to boost red squirrel numbers in Scotland

Small numbers of red squirrels are to be trapped and relocated to new areas under a plan to boost numbers of the mammal in Scotland.

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Trees for Life and the Highland Foundation for Wildlife hope to introduce the native species to 10 locations.

They said squirrels would be “collected” from healthy populations in Moray and around Inverness.

The 10 relocation sites have still to be confirmed.

Red squirrels face threats from habitat loss and non-native grey squirrels which compete with them for food and can pass on diseases.

Conservationist Roy Dennis is involved in the new Caledonian Forest Wildlife Project. In 2008, he led an effort to move 40 red squirrels into woodlands at Dundonnell in Wester Ross. That population has since grown to 400 squirrels.

The new project has secured a grant of more than £61,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Alan Watson Featherstone, of Trees for Life, said: “Through an effective and proven approach, this exciting initiative will help red squirrels return to the forests where they belong for the first time in decades – leading to significant new populations of this iconic species and offering real hope for its long-term survival.

“Increasing red squirrel numbers will also benefit our native forests and the many species that depend on them, because red squirrels are nature’s tree planters. They collect and bury thousands of tree seeds each autumn, but frequently forget these hoards – which in spring take root and so expand our woodlands.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-34044818

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Thousands sign petition after Scots horse is stabbed and sexually assaulted

More than 4,500 people have petitioned Justice Secretary Michael Matheson calling for a change in animal cruelty sentencing.

An online petition calling for a change to animal cruelty sentencing has got the attention of the Scottish government after it attracted more than 3,500 signatures.

The petition – intended for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson – was launched after an 18-year-old horse was stabbed and sexually assaulted while it was grazing in the New Pitsligo area of the North East last weekend.

Blaze was found by her owner Zoe Wright the following evening and despite vets’ best efforts, the retired show jumper was put to sleep.

Disgusted at the abhorrent crime, a Change.org petition was launched to encourage stricter sentencing where crimes of animal cruelty have been committed and by this morning it has already attracted more than 4,500 of its 5,000 signature target.

Campaign creator Maria Verrecchia appeals to ‘anyone who has access to the internet” to lobby for a change to the law to harsher-punish those who commit heinous acts like those inflicted on Blaze.

She says: “The likelihood of the perpetrators being brought to any form of justice is not only slim due to the nature of the crime and the relevance to police time and resources, but will likely bring about a sentence of a fine and maximum term of 12 months imprisonment under the Scottish Judicial System.

“If a Sheriff hears the case and not a Jury (Scotland) then the sentencing is likely to be even less.”

“Animal Rights may never be put on a par with Human Rights, but the resulting pain and loss suffered from this level of cruelty remains very HUMAN and should be measured on that fact at the very least.”

“Please help to obtain Justice for Blaze – raise awareness and apply pressure to those who can amend the Law and bring about heavier sentencing and a greater awareness within the Judicial System in addressing the causes of such offending.”

At current, a conviction of causing an animal unnecessary suffering can carry 12 months in prison, a lifetime ban on keeping animals and a £20,000 fine.

Speaking to the Press and Journal, a Holyrood Spokesperson said: “Animal cruelty and abuse are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated in a modern civilised society.

“However we recognise that it is only right that maximum penalties for any type of offence should be reviewed periodically within the context of penalties for other offences.”

Maria told the P&J: “The current sentencing level for this crime does not reflect the heinous cruelty of horse mutilation and sexual abuse.

“Blaze was a servant, a trusting creature, trapped, abused and mutilated and left to suffer. Let Scotland and its people be a voice for Blaze and all animals that suffer cruelty.”

Distraught Zoe offered a reward of £1,000 through Facebook to anyone who is able to provide information that results in an arrest.

Police are continuing their investigation into Blaze’s death.

*** Sign the petition here ***

Article taken from: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/thousands-sign-petition-after-scots-6315643

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Renew calls for wild animal ban as circus comes to Langley Mill

The RSPCA are urging all members of the public vote with our feet and give a circus coming to Langley Mill in Derbyshire a miss.

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Peter Jolly’s Circus will be in the town, just off the A610, from 26 August to 31 August. The circus uses wild animals.

The charity has long been pushing for a complete ban on the use of wild animals in circuses; yet they still continue to be forced into performing crude tricks for so-called ‘entertainment’.

Due to their dependency on regular travel, circuses can’t provide the sizeable and complex living conditions that are required for animals traditionally used in this way such as lions, zebras and tigers.

The British public want to see a ban on wild animals in circuses.

RSPCA head of public affairs, David Bowles, said: “The impact of circuses on animal welfare is serious and potentially debilitating for each and every animal involved. Animals are forced to endure the constant travel, cramped temporary cages, and noisy conditions of a circus. It’s not a quaint tradition that harks back to Victorian times. It’s an archaic and heartless practice which must be stopped completely. This circus may be one of two that are licensed to use wild animals – but that is still too many. The British public have a better understanding of animal welfare than the UK Government are giving them credit for. Ninety-four per cent of people who responded to a Defra consultation on this subject wanted a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. The recognition of animals as sentient beings is now widely accepted across the world and legislation is slowly catching up – except for here in the UK and it’s unacceptable. The circus isn’t the greatest show on earth, it’s the saddest show on earth for the animals and it’s a practice that needs to be abolished.”

Find out more about the issues associated with keeping wild animals in circuses and take action to help ensure a ban on keeping wild animals in circuses is enacted as soon as possible.

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Edinburgh zoo panda no longer believed to be pregnant

The UK’s only female giant panda will not give birth to a cub this year, experts at Edinburgh Zoo believe.

Tian Tian

Tian Tian was artificially inseminated for the third time in March and was thought to have conceived.
But despite the panda still showing signs of being pregnant, the zoo now believes Tian Tian lost the cub.

It is common for giant pandas to re-absorb the foetus into the womb in the late stages of pregnancy.
Chris West, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), said: “Based upon our scientific data, the window has now passed during which Tian Tian would have given birth
“Therefore RZSS has to advise that we now do not believe that our female giant panda will have a cub.

“Tian Tian is still showing behaviour of a pregnant panda, being sleepy and off her food, but we now must assume she has re-absorbed her pregnancy in late term.”

A team of three vets and a panda expert from China carried out the insemination on Tian Tian.
The procedure had also been carried out in each of the previous two years but she has so far failed to produce a cub.

Panda reproduction is a notoriously difficult process, with females only ovulating once a year.

The gestation period is typically five months and one or two cubs are usually born.

Mr West said the zoo had carried out “the world’s most comprehensive hormone analysis of an individual female giant panda” as they tracked any potential pregnancy.

“We are also hopeful that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has made some key discoveries relating to giant panda pregnancy, which will add to the global understanding of this endangered species,” Mr West added.

“The conservation of giant pandas is a complex international effort. Although still early in the birthing season, this year we have had fantastic news from the National Zoo, Washington, and Zoo Negara in Malaysia.

“Our hopes and best wishes are now with Memphis Zoo and Ocean Park Hong Kong. No giant panda zoo works in isolation and success for one institution means success for the overall giant panda conservation programme.”

Tian Tian (Sweetie) and male Yang Guang (Sunshine) were the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years when they arrived on loan from China in December 2011.

The panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo was closed to the public last week as keepers prepared for the arrival of a rare cub and is due to reopen later today.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-34048872

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Take Action: Campaign to end live animal exports

Each year tens of thousands of live farm animals are shipped overseas from UK shores to the continent. Loaded onto crowded trucks, their gruelling journeys can take days as they travel as far as Spain and Greece only to be slaughtered at their destination. Many animals, such as calves and sheep, suffer stress and exhaustion, hunger, thirst and rough handling – some even die in transit.

These poor animals can’t speak out, but we can. RSPCA are asking people to help end their suffering and lend our voices in calling on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to stop live exports of farmed animals from the UK.

To sign the petition and demand change from DEFRA, click here.