The Badger Trust has backed calls from Parliament’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for the government to provide clear evidence that the badger culls are working as the latest figures show TB in cattle is rising in and around the cull zones.
The move follows the release of new data from DEFRA for Somerset which shows that in the 12 months to September 2014 the level of new TB incidents in cattle was 297 but in the 12 months to September 2015, this jumped to 320 a 7.75% increase, despite badger culling having now taken place in Somerset for the last 3 years.
This is in stark contrast to claims made by NFU President Meurig Raymond in his speech at their annual conference in Birmingham in February that cattle TB incidents in the Somerset cull zone had decreased from 34% to 11% between 2013 and 2015, which he claimed could only be due to the culling of badgers.
Responding to the EFRA Select Committee and the latest DEFRA bovine TB data Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said,
“The government is attempting to bury bad news by releasing the 2015 badger cull figures on the day of the Christmas Recess in Westminster. Despite claiming all the cull contractors have met their targets for 2015, there is no evidence the killing of badgers is reducing the level of bovine TB in cattle
I am pleased to see that the EFRA Select Committee has called on DEFRA to establish a thorough evidence base for underpinning policy formulation on bovine TB and for this to be communicated in a fully transparent manner. They are also right to call for an urgent release of data on the level of bovine TB in the badger cull zones.
The claims by the NFU and pro-cull politicians that badger culling is delivering a significant reduction in bovine TB are looking increasingly bogus and the exact opposite of the truth. £20 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent killing thousands of badgers and yet cattle TB in Somerset is on the rise. To put this in context, TB rates in cattle outside of the cull zones have been dropping consistently for five years due to improved testing, bio-security and movement controls.
Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin added,
“The government’s own risk assessments stated before the culls began that there was a high probability that cattle TB rates would rise following the badger culls and this was backed up by the country’s top scientists in the field. In practice the culls have been condemned by independent scientists and vets as inhumane and the sub-optimal way they are being conducted means they have mostly failed to achieve even their basic targets.
The EFRA Select Committee is absolutely right to call on DEFRA to take greater account of the alternative TB reduction strategies of the devolved administrations. The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bovine TB in cattle are now down by 28% in Wales with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This now leaves 94% of the Welsh heard TB free, without killing any badgers.
Unless the government can prove the culling of badgers is working in terms of lowering TB in cattle, this cruel, ineffective and hugely costly policy must be stopped immediately.”