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ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects

Statement from ZSL, 9th December 2016:

Brian May’s Save Me Trust calls for an evaluation of the role of badger vaccination, alongside a proper review of the effectiveness, if any, of badger culls on bovine TB in cattle.

It also draws attention to the fact that it is no longer possible to believe that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease, or even a significant component of its transmission. The principal mechanism of reinfection now being confirmed to be in undetected, infectious cattle in the herds themselves.

In the latest research revealed today on Bovine TB management, science has once again put an end to speculation. As ZSL’s new paper published today – ‘Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin’.

Two years ago, a cattle vet in Devon speculated that vaccinating badgers might disrupt their behaviour, thus spreading TB to new areas. His ideas were based on no evidence at all; nevertheless they were repeated in the media as though they were facts, undermining support for badger vaccination.

Research published today by the Zoological Society of London confirms that vaccination, in fact, has no detectable effect on badger behaviour. In the ZSL experiment, badgers were trapped, vaccinated and released, and were subsequently tracked with GPS collars. It was found that they travelled no further than those which had not been vaccinated.

This is encouraging news for badgers and cattle alike. ZSL’s research confirms that vaccination does not have the same potential to increase the incidence of TB in cattle as culling.  Culling DOES disrupt badger behaviour and, while it’s now also clear that badgers are at most a very small part of the re-infection of cattle herds, scientists believe that the Government’s present policy of culling badgers is likely to make matters worse.

ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects. Undisrupted, ‘normal’ badger behaviour sees badgers in tightly defined communities, which give the best opportunity for vaccination to be effective. Since vaccination is also cheaper and more publicly acceptable, the choice between vaccination and culling should be straightforward.

Bovine TB is a major problem for British cattle farmers, so TB control efforts must be based on the best available evidence. Hopefully, this new research will encourage proper studies of the role that vaccination could play in TB control.

However, to put this in perspective, recent evidence confirms the fact that transmission of TB has very little to do with badgers. At least 96 per cent of re-infection is due to undetected carriers of the bTB Micobacterium in the herd. Current Government policy forces farmers to rely on the infamous skin test to detect and remove infected cows, a course of action which is demonstrably failing. Only an enhanced testing regime can give hope to farmers who are, at present, locked in a hopeless situation.

We must review all the new available science and remove this expensive, ill fated and ineffective policy. It doesn’t support the science, the badgers, the cattle or the farmers.

Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1527401/

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Badger cull areas more than triple under new government licences

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The number of areas where badgers will be culled to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis is to more than triple under licences issued by the government on Tuesday.

Licensed shooters could begin killing badgers within days in Herefordshire, Cornwall and Devon, which have been added to the culling already taking place in recent years in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

Ministers say the culling is essential to stop the spread of bovine TB to cattle, which cost the taxpayer £100m in 2015 to compensate farmers for slaughtered cattle. But experts have said the culls “fly in the face of scientific evidence” and could even make the problem worse.

George Eustice, the farming minister, said the cull’s expansion was vital to tackle the “reservoir” of the disease in badgers. “Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results, with more than half the country on track to be free of the disease by the end of this parliament.”

In total, 10 areas have now been licensed for culling, up from three areas previously. Ministers also announced the provision of more information and advice on cattle movements and biosecurity measures and a consultation on the use of more sensitive tests.

The National Farmers Union welcomed the move. Meurig Raymond, the NFU president, said: “Farmers facing a daily battle against bTB in those areas that have been granted licences for badger control operations this year will welcome the news that finally action is being taken to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife in these areas.

“Today’s announcement means that badger control will now be taking place in 10% of the area where cattle are at the highest risk of contracting bTB.”

But scientists, Labour and animal welfare groups condemned the expansion and said it would not stop the disease. Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Institute of Biology in London, said: “This is a huge disappointment for evidence-based policy making. The scale of the rollout is huge: farmers will be required to kill almost 10,000 badgers at a minimum before the end of November. And yet the government has released no evidence that farmer-led culling is helping to control cattle TB.”

Rachel Maskell, shadow environment secretary, said: “The decision to extend the badger cull flies in the face of the government’s own evidence that shows the killing of thousands of badgers has not reduced the number of cattle contracting bovine TB. The government promised when they embarked on the cull that it would be an evidence based approach, yet they are failing to take any notice of the facts.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said: “Defra statistics show that despite killing thousands of badgers the number of cattle slaughtered for TB continues to rise in and around the cull zones. We could kill ever badger in Britain but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor bio security controls.

“The badger is being used as a scapegoat for failures in the modern livestock industry. The badger cull has failed on scientific, humaneness and cost grounds. For Andrea Leadsom to extend the badger cull to seven new areas defies belief and is a national disgrace,” he said.

Chris Pitt, deputy director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “It is ludicrous that given all the evidence collated over the last four years, the government plan to roll out their misguided badger cull even further. Killing badgers is not only disastrous for badgers, but it’s also calamitous for cattle and a dead end for farmers, because all the unbiased scientific opinion suggests that we’ll never get rid of bovine TB this way.”

Claire Bass, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, said: “It is both shocking and sad that the government is expanding this cruel ‘pilot’ policy to three new counties.”

The cost to taxpayers for the cull, described as “industry-led” by the government, was £17.6m for the three years from 2013 to 2015, including £6.7m on policing and £6.6m on independent monitoring of effectiveness and humaneness. The lmonitoring, which found the first year of culls were not effective or humane, has been discontinued. The expenditure is equivalent to many thousands of pounds for each badger killed.

The government funding needed for each new culling area is estimated at £1.2m a year, meaning the seven news areas will cost a total of £33.6m in total over the planned four years of culling.

The government’s original value-for-money assessment of the badger culls showed they would cost more than they saved in TB reduction. But a new assessment from the government finds that the benefit of future culls will exceed the costs, due to “to more cost-effective monitoring and policing”.

The government expects policing costs to “disappear” over time, “following further successful badger control operations without security incident”, but protesters say they intend to take direct action to drive up policing costs.

Recent research showed that bovine TB is not passed through direct contact between badgers and cattle, but through contaminated pasture and dung.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/30/badger-cull-areas-more-than-triple-under-new-government-licences

RSPCA are urging people to write to their MP and ask for an end to badger suffering. MPs are encouraged to attend the Westminster debate on 7th September and seek alternatives to this unnecessary and ineffective cull.

*** Ask your MP to take action for badgers – click here ***

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Sting of the Day: Nottingham ‘barbaric’ badger killer Paul Tomlinson jailed

A man who killed two badgers in a “barbaric” attack using two dogs has been sent to prison. Paul Tomlinson, 29, from Nottingham, filmed the attacks and discussed it on social media, in June 2014.

Tomlinson, of Melford Road, was jailed for 20 weeks and banned from keeping dogs for three years, at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.

The RSPCA described Tomlinson’s actions as “barbaric” and would not be tolerated in modern society.

Dog in a cageThe RSPCA said the dogs sustained injuries in the fights too

Tomlinson was charged with two counts of wilfully killing or attempting to kill a badger, contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act, on 5 and 23 June 2014.

He was also accused of keeping three Lurcher dogs for use in connection with an animal fight, contrary to the Animal Welfare Act.

Magistrate Pam Draper told Tomlinson: “You kept and trained dogs for fighting, enabling them to kill the badgers.

“You videoed this happening and posted it on social media and the dogs sustained injuries.”

Dog being led away by RSPCA officersTomlinson was also charged with keeping Lurcher dogs for fighting

After the sentencing Mike Butcher, RSPCA’s chief inspector, said Tomlinson went out to “deliberately attack” animals.

“That can’t be tolerated. In this day and age it’s a barbaric way to pass your time – it’s amazing how many people do this and how prevalent it is,” Mr Butcher said.

“It was organised, it was thought about, so that should always contain a jail sentence.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-35562978

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Badger Trust backs MP’s call for proof that culls are working as TB rates rise

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.

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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.”

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Brian May’s request for judicial review into badger cull rejected

Rock star Brian May’s quest for a judicial review into the legalities of badger culling has failed.
The animal rights campaigner pursued High Court legal action after badger culls began in Dorset and continued in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

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But after a first judicial review request was turned down, an appeal has now also been rejected.
May’s Save Me Trust said the government went against its own culling policy and would explore other legal challenges.

The government and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said culling badgers would curb tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

In August the news of an extended badger cull prompted the trust to lodge an unsuccessful request for a judicial review in September.

The trust accused the government of going against Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) policy, published in 2011, “which promised no culling would take place if the incidence of bTB was falling in a specific place”.

Save Me Trust CEO Anne Brummer said Defra figures showed the incidence of bovine TB was declining in both Dorset and Gloucestershire three years before the culls began.

She said: “Where a public authority issues a promise as to how it intends to act, the law requires that the promise is honoured unless there is good reason not to do so.”

However a High Court judge denied the application for a judicial review on appeal at a two-hour oral hearing, on the grounds that the initial request should have been lodged earlier.

The cull has now ended for this year, but the charity is still pursuing “legal action options” as the culls take place over four years.

May did not issue a statement but had earlier said: “This awful policy must be put to bed now, in favour of a policy that really will address the TB problem in cattle.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-34640755

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Freedom of Information Request Reveals True Cost of Badger Cull – Nearly £7,000 per badger killed

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.

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The DEFRA figures show:
2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000
2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000
2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000
Total costs – £16,777,000

The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.

Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.

“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.

“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”

Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.

“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 public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

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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.”