Dorset Badger Cull Autumn 2016 Officially Confirmed

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The BBC have announced this morning that the culls will be starting early September, we think it will be earlier, maybe this Bank Holiday Monday!

West Dorset is a new zone so we will have the two zones this year, as North Dorset will be culled for the second time.

If you are able to help in the zones please contact us on 07557 229273, if you are not able to help walking on patrols, there may be other ways you could still help!

Starting August 29th 2016 (Bank Holiday Monday) the Dorset Badger Patrols are meeting at 7:30-8pm EVERY NIGHT while the cull lasts, at the following meeting points:

Shaftesbury – Tesco’s car park, SP7 8PF
Dorchester – Tesco’s car park, DT1 2RY
Bridport – by the Bus/Coach station to the right of the Bridport Police station, DT6 3TP

We are also raising funds for fuel to help our patrollers – if you wish to donate please go to https://dorsetbandb.org/donate

The government have again decided to ignore all the scientists and experts that have stated that culling is not the way to stop Bovine TB, and in fact could make the problem even worse (as badgers flee cull zones) so we will be showing our protest in a peaceful manner again.

If we are close to cull operators they cannot shoot – so our presence is important, and we can save lives!

We thank you all for your support.
Here we go again…

See also the Mail Online article today: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3754280/Badger-cull-tackle-bovine-TB-extended.html

Make sure you check out all our latest blog posts to be fully updated and for more information – go to our Home page here – and double check the latest Badger Patrol Meeting info on the top right of this site!

Dorset Badgers Need You!

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An appeal to anyone within easy reach of Dorset and who hasn’t already been in touch with DBBW or DBP, offering to help during the cull:

The slaughter is almost upon us. The badgers desperately need us, whether you’ve been out on patrol in previous years or are a complete newcomer.

PATROLS

You can patrol at any time during the day or night. There will be a 24-hour Control Number for you to ring to report anything you see. There will also be a police liaison team number if needed.

You won’t be asked to take on more than you can manage.

If you want to walk regularly during day, we can give you maps of a particular area/zone convenient for you.

Night patrols go out in small groups. Those run by Dorset Badger Patrol will keep to legal rights of way.

[UPDATE] Starting August 29th 2016 (Bank Holiday Monday) the Dorset Badger Patrols are meeting at 7:30-8pm EVERY NIGHT while the cull lasts, at the following meeting points:

Shaftesbury – Tesco’s car park, SP7 8PF
Dorchester – Tesco’s car park, DT1 2RY
Bridport – by the Bus/Coach station to the right of the Bridport Police station, DT6 3TP

Police liaison will be attending. There will probably be another meeting point in Bridport. Details of that and where in each car park we will be meeting to follow.

Equipment: Hi-viz jackets and waistcoats are a must, day or night. Good torch plus spare batteries. Mobile phone and camera. Map-reading/navigation skills would be useful but not essential.

ACCOMMODATION

Coming from further afield? If you don’t want to camp but would like accommodation for a few nights, please email us.

If you live in north or west Dorset and can offer a spare bed or two to fellow patrollers or parking for a camper van, please email us.

Got a spare bed? Then help us give all people coming to Dorset to protect our badgers a warm welcome!

Email dorsetbbw@gmail.com or dorsetbadgerpatrol@gmail.com

Make sure you check out all our latest blog posts to be fully updated and for more information – go to our Home page here – and double check the latest Badger Patrol Meeting info on the top right of this site!

Dorset Badger Cull Update – Summer 2016

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It’s been a while since our last blog post but rest assured we have been extremely busy working behind the scenes preparing for the dreadful day the badger cull may resume, which is now expected to be very soon…

Join the Dorset Badger Patrol

We need lots more volunteers to join our group of peaceful protesters walking public byways during the badger culls.

Follow DBP on Facebook or on Twitter for more updates and contact us via our contact page or via DBVP.

Donations needed for fuel and equipment

You can help us by donating towards fuel and equipment which will be desperately needed during the upcoming badger cull – click here to donate.

Keep up to date on our social media pages

Please follow DBBW on Facebook or on Twitter for lots more updates.

Make sure you also check out all our latest blog posts to be fully updated and for more information – go to our Home page here – and double check the latest Badger Patrol Meeting info on the top right of this site!

Here is just a selection of recent news articles we think are of particular interest as they remind us why a badger cull may continue to make the problem of TB in cattle worse, not better:

The Guardian: Badger Cull Linked to Rise in Bovine TB Cases
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/19/badger-cull-linked-to-rise-in-bovine-tb-cases?CMP=share_btn_tw

The Guardian: Bovine TB Not Passed on Through Direct Contact With Badgers
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/05/bovine-tb-not-passed-on-through-direct-contact-with-badgers-research-shows?CMP=share_btn_tw?

The Ecologist: Why Badgers Are Always at the Head of the Blame Queue
http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2987993/why_are_badgers_always_at_the_head_of_the_blame_queue.html

Informed Protest is a Legal Right

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From December 2011, when it became clear that the government was going to implement its policy of culling badgers, Defra and Natural England (NE) were flooded with requests for information about how the culls would be set up, conducted and monitored, under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI). One such person seeking information was Anna Dale, and her success has implications for everyone trying to protect the environment and wildlife.

Many FoI requests are refused on various grounds – ‘not allowed under the Environmental Information Regulations’ is a favourite, Defra banking on the hope that no one has read the EIR. Sometimes the information released is so blacked out it is meaningless. Or it would not be ‘in the public interest’.

Details, including names of farmers, landowners or culling contractors, cannot be given as it would ‘compromise public safety’, even when the request had specifically stated names were not sought. Or Defra or NE ‘does not hold that information’.

Disheartened, many people do not persevere. Anna Dale did. After a lengthy battle she succeeded in getting the information she wanted, after she and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) went to court.

Anna made an FoI request to Defra and three to NE (between April and October 2013). Answers to the initial letters being unsatisfactory, Anna wrote again, asking for ‘internal reviews’ which also proved unhelpful. Anna pressed on and took her failure to gain the wanted information to the ICO. She had to wait some time before being assigned a case officer, but the ICO supported her and ordered Defra and NE to release the information. They appealed.

September 2015: the case against the Defra and NE appeals is heard by the Information Tribunal.

Defra was more than muddled. First it said it did hold the information but refused to release it. After the review it said it didn’t hold the information. During the hearing it was ordered to search again with the result that it couldn’t supply the information requested because it held some but not all of the information needed for a complete answer. The Judge allowed Defra’s appeal but politely told Defra to get its act together and stop wasting people’s time and money.

Did you understood that? The lesson to take from this to-and-fro exercise is, in your initial FoI request, to ask that the authority undertakes ‘adequate and properly directed searches in your Department and any Executive Agencies.’

The information Anna sought included:

  • The total area of each ring area or buffer zone in square kilometres for West Gloucester and West Somerset (it turned out there were no buffer zones recorded for West Gloucester which, Anna said, was in itself a significant cause for concern when trying to assess the results of culling).
  • The information in the Badger Control Plans of all applicants in the WG and WS Pilot Areas and the reserve pilot cull area for Dorset which had not already been disclosed, except for the applicants’ identities

The Tribunal’s decision provides some very useful reading for those campaigning against the culls. To start with:

The right to environmental information

The whole of the public’s right to environmental information comes under two closely related bodies of laws, the first being the Aarhus Convention which grants citizens the right to environmental information, and enables them to take an informed part in any decisions concerning their environment, and informed protest if they disagree with those decisions.

In 2004 the UK enacted the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), implementing the EC Directive on public access to environmental information. The Directive closely follows Aarhus. The Judge and his Panel made great use of these laws in forming the Decision. For instance, Aarhus says:

“… in the field of the environment, improved access to information and public participation in decision-making enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions, contribute to public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such concerns”.

These values condition the interpretation of the EIR, said the Judge, stressing the point that the public has an over-riding right to environmental information and that any refusal to disclose it has to be ‘restrictive’. Thus, a public authority “shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure”. Note the ‘shall’ – as in ‘must’, not ‘may’. Any grounds for refusal must be ‘specific and clearly defined’.

Under the EIR, information may be refused on these grounds:

  • The authority does not hold the information (as in Defra, which did, didn’t and partially did)
  • Disclosure of the information would adversely affect ‘international relations, defence, national security or public safety; or the protection of the environment to which the information relates’.
  • Public interest can also be cited.

As culling badgers would not affect international relations, defence or national security, NE depended on protection of the environment, public safety and public interest. Thus they argued that culling badgers was ‘protecting the environment’. The Judge said:

“The anti-cull movement believe that vaccinating badgers and other measures such as restricting cattle movements are the way to protect the environment including cattle. These views, we are informed, are supported by many scientists.”

Public Safety

There was much discussion about releasing the names of landholders (even though Anna was not seeking names), which NE said was a matter of public safety. NFU witnesses and NE argued that releasing such information would result in intimidation from ‘activists’. One witness related how he had personally been targeted, but much of the evidence was anecdotal and ‘speculative’.

The ICO took the ‘restrictive’ approach on safety issues. Simply put, beyond reported ‘worry and stress’ among farmers, no actual physical harm occurred.

NE argued that the ICO’s approach will lead to ‘drastic and terrifying results’, that it ‘could endanger people’s safety for no good reason’ and that it is ‘a reckless and thoughtless construction.’

Emotive language indeed, but the Judge noted that:

“… the limited police figures and correspondence available in evidence … do not support widespread chaos and illegality across the … cull areas.” Rather the contrary, as he pointed out:

 “Most of the incidents described seem to us to be perfectly lawful protester activity, such as marching or demonstrating to gain public support for their cause; or identifying participants who can be lobbied and using largely lawful methods to try to persuade them to cease involvement in the culls through social media, phone calls, writing polite letters to retailers of farm produce etc.” (Emphasis added)

Given the recent news about the release of the names of Devon farmers, and despite the fact that the majority of anti-cull people do not approve of abusive or confrontational behaviour, the phrase ‘perfectly lawful protester activity’ is worth studying.

NE also argued that the destruction or removal of the cage-traps ‘compromised public safety’. Such activity is illegal but, as Dorset Police said after the 2015 cull, there were no arrests or prosecutions because there were no witnesses or proof as to who was responsible. The Judge said:

“There is, for example, no necessary need to treat an adverse effect on property (such as a badger trap) as having the same weight as an adverse effect on safety from a physical attack on a person or an inhabited dwelling.”

Public Interest

Government and its allies have always cited ‘public interest’ when what they mean is ‘government interest’. The Judge said:

“… the whole basis of Aarhus and the Directive is to encourage public participation in environmental matters. That participation encompasses, as a central feature, public protest on matters of environmental concern. Where, as here, Government policy on an environmental issue is a matter of substantial debate and concern, the provision of environmental information, including information facilitating protest, is vitally important. Increased protesting in the cull areas (or better directed protesting) is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society.” (Emphasis added)

And:

“The ability to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the pilot culls is a significant public interest particularly in view of the public controversy surrounding the badger culls.”

The final paragraph of the Decision reads:

“We have considered the public interest balancing exercise and also the presumption in favour of disclosure and find that in all the circumstances of these appeals the public interest in maintaining the exceptions does not outweigh the public interest in disclosure for the reasons given above. In summary we find that in the circumstances of this case the weight we give to the ability of protesters to be able to more effectively monitor the effectiveness of a controversial Government policy is greater than the weight we give to the combined increasing risk of harm to farmers and the stopping of the culls.” (Emphasis added).

The Conclusion

Anna won, and now we know – the public has the right to far more information on the environment than the authorities are willing to disclose. The public has the right to use that information to monitor activities that could, or is, harming the environment. This decision supports that right and can be used when pressing for more information.

This isn’t just about the badger cull. It’s about fracking, nuclear power, government policies on GM, pesticides, herbicides and destructive ‘development’ on SSSIs. It is about the people’s right to fight for the health of the environment they are part of.

Indeed, the decision says that almost everything that ‘protesters’ are doing in their desire to stop some action that harms the environment (and all it contains) is legal Nor does it compromise public safety – although it may compromise unscientific prejudice or profits.

And note this: while this case was being heard Defra was holding a public consultation on its plans to considerably alter the guidance and regulations of the culls. People did respond to this consultation but Defra took no notice and did what it wanted anyway. Had this judgment been available, we would have read and acted on this:

“The fact that the Government is now… carrying out a consultation on aspects of the Policy supports the need for respondees to that consultation to have access to as much information as possible so as to provide informed responses.”

Well, they wouldn’t want ‘informed responses’, now would they?

Thank you, Anna.

Lesley Docksey © 29 /03/16

(First published by the Ecologist)

An Unlikely Story: the Radio Times sells badger culling

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The latest issue of the Radio Times must be making anti-badger culling people spitting mad.  An article titled An Unlikely Star by Terry Payne, is advertising a programme, Land of Hope and Glory, being broadcast by BBC2 on Friday 4 March at 9 pm.

As Mark Jones (veterinarian and policy manager, Born Free Foundation) comments:

“The article paints a wholly inaccurate and biased picture of the situation facing cattle farmers affected by bovine tuberculosis.”

Jane Treays whose film it is has, on her own admission, set out to make a very partisan case for culling badgers. As quoted by Payne, she says:

“There is a massacre of our dairy herds going on and it is not being covered”.

The ‘massacre’ is the number of cattle being slaughtered because of bovine TB – around 30,000 a year (not all of which have bTB). What is never mentioned is the greater ‘massacre’ of cattle slaughtered for other reasons. For example, in 2008 75,000 were slaughtered because they were infertile.

Nor can Treays claim that the issue of bTB in cattle is not being covered. It constantly appears in the Western Region media (and elsewhere), in farming programmes on radio and TV and papers devoted to farming. And far more space is granted to the NFU and farmers wanting to cull badgers than is given to those people trying to argue on scientific grounds that badger culls won’t help the farmers or their cattle.

The ‘unlikely star’ of Treays’ film is Somerset farmer Maurice Durbin who has had TB on his farm since 2010. Faced with that information, Jan Bayley of the Animal Welfare Group commented:

“To have continuous incidents suggests that TB is endemic in his herd.”

One wonders whether the vets and Defra inspectors constantly visiting his farm had ever suggested as much.   Mark Jones agrees:

“Bovine TB is a significant problem for our cattle industry. This problem has been exacerbated in recent years because of cattle farming and trading practices which are not focussed on disease control, and by successive governments which took their eye off the ball, particularly during the BSE and FMD crises. So much so, that in some parts of the west and south west the disease has effectively become endemic.”

In fact, the strong possibility of endemic bTB in herds is something that should be taken very seriously, studied and acted upon. Durbin has lost a third of his 320-strong pedigree Guernsey herd to the disease which, so the article says, is ‘often transmitted in the urine of badgers’. And note, not badgers possibly infected with bTB, just badgers. There are theories as to how transmission between cattle and badgers takes place, but nothing is proven.

Mark Jones adds:

“Many wild animals can contract bovine TB, and badgers can certainly carry the infection. But shooting large numbers of mostly healthy badgers will not help cattle farmers tackle a problem their industry has created.

“The fundamental difficulty with bovine TB is that the primary test used to determine whether cattle are infected only detects between 50-80% of the infected animals, leaving anything from one-in-five to one-in-two (that is anything between 20 and 50 per cent) of infected animals in the herd to continue spreading the infection. With ever larger herds this creates a huge problem, and is the reason so many herds suffer multiple breakdowns.”

Durbin’s farm has been ‘effectively closed for all this time’.   Of course it has. Mark Jones continues:

“The testing limitations mean that, in order to control the spread of disease, very strict testing regimes must be introduced and adhered to, movement restrictions on known infected herds and farm biosecurity measures must be rigorous, and enforced risk-based trading is essential to ensure clean herds do not become infected from herds, which though declared ‘disease free’ actually still harbour infection.

“These are the measures which enabled bovine TB to be successfully brought under control back in the late 1950s and 1960s during the so-called ‘area eradication strategy’. Under that scheme, the number of cattle slaughtered because of bovine TB was reduced from a peak of 25,000 in 1959, to less than 10% of that figure a decade later. It’s worth noting we didn’t even know badgers could be infected with bovine TB until 1971.”

Treays says:

“We hear lots about the inhumanity of culling badgers, but nothing about the 30,000 cattle that are being shot each year because of TB.”

Being shot? Does Treays know anything about the slaughter of cattle in abattoirs?   She claims that she ‘loves’ badgers and that it was right that they had become a protected species but:

“… now it is out of balance. The job of protecting them is done.”

Seeing that badgers are still dug out of their setts for badger baiting, most would disagree with that. She continues:

“No one is speaking up for the dairy industry… We have got to have a more reasoned debate.”

The NFU is constantly bleating about the state of the dairy industry, the price of milk, the threat of bTB and the necessity of culling badgers. But it refuses absolutely to have a reasoned debate with the scientists.

Yet as Mark Jones says:

“Playing the ‘badger blame game’ will not solve the bovine TB problem for farmers. The ‘massacre’ of cattle must of course be tackled, but not by massacring badgers, which won’t help struggling farmers and may well make things considerably worse.”

Payne’s article ends:

A tearful farmer Durbin is clear where the blame lies. “It’s the bloody do-gooders. They interfere with everything we do.”

By ‘do-gooders’ does he means scientists, vets and wildlife experts?

Lesley Docksey © 26/02/16

More Badger Culling, Less Science

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The government’s badger culling project is getting more unscientific by the day, or should one say by the square kilometre?

A few days ago Natural England announced that, for this year’s badger culls, a ‘total of 29 applications or expressions of interest for a badger control licence’ have been received, from Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. According to south-western media, 25 of these applications are for areas within Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Which leaves just 4 covering the other 5 counties!

Consult and ignore

When the government held a public consultation on badger culling, the previous Labour government having decided, as a result of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, not to implement a cull, it received 59,000 responses, very many of them raising serious scientific concerns.

Regardless, the government announced in 2010 that ‘a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control’ would be introduced; their ‘rules’ stated that culling must take place over a minimum area of 150km2 so ‘we can be confident it will have a net beneficial effect’. This despite the Randomised Badger Culling Trials having concluded culling badgers would ‘have no meaningful effect’ in preventing the spread of bovine TB.   Goodbye, science.

In the autumn of 2015 another public consultation was held about proposed changes to the criteria governing culling. Those results were ignored too, Liz Truss happily announcing that ‘further statistical analysis’ of the RBCT (whose results have been constantly misquoted by the government) and ‘post-trial analysis’ allowed for the minimum culling area to come down from 150 km2 to 100 km2 .

The RSPCA, in its response to the government’s 2010 consultation (a must read), pointed out that the post-trial analysis had already been considered by the previous government when taking the decision not to engage in badger culling. Yet again, the Environment Secretary is misrepresenting the facts.

Even worse and despite the firm recommendation of the RBCT to confine culling to a 6-week period (causing the least pertubation of badger populations possibly spreading the disease), she made it far more convenient for the farmers. Basically, apart from the closed season when cubs are being reared, it’s now almost open season.

Cullers don’t like small areas

However, culling contractors prefer large areas, hoping that the sheer miles involved will discourage those people trying to defend badgers from the guns. According to NE, the applications cover areas ranging from from 135 km2 to 655 km2, with the average area being approximately 330 km2. (For those who walk, drive and think in miles, those figures are 52.1, 253.8 and 127.4 square miles respectively.)

How can one achieve an even half-accurate estimate of the badger population in an area of 127 or 252 square miles that could contain major differences in geology, soil and landscape? Yet it is on this dodgy estimate that the number of badgers to be culled per year is decided by Natural England. But NE doesn’t have the staff to cover the ground and farmers consistently overestimate how many badgers a sett holds.

Many do not understand that a single group of badgers may have more than one sett. Or that a long established sett may have over 30 entrances/holes yet no more than 5 or 6 badgers in residence, the average family group being 5.9 badgers. One farmer’s over-estimate for the number of badgers on his land amounted to three badgers per acre. Rabbits maybe. Badgers no.

Is culling badgers the only option?

No. In 2011 the European Commission carried out an audit on the UK’s efforts in controlling bTB in cattle. The report was damning, highlighting many areas where testing, cattle movement controls and biosecurity measures were quite simply inadequate.

The UK produced some defensive comments on the report (the word ‘wildlife’ appeared just once, and badgers not at all) and then a proposed plan to deal with the situation, implemented in 2013. But until England follows the route taken by Wales (e.g. annual TB testing on all cattle, not just in selected areas), England’s farmers will still struggle to gain control over bTB.

Biosecurity on farms is an absolute must if one is serious about controlling any form of disease (bird or swine flu for example) that might be transmitted by wildlife or stock on neighbouring farms, particularly when one considers that intensive farming methods compromise the immune systems of the animals, making them more vulnerable to infection.

But how many farms do you have to see with your eyes wide shut before noticing that too many are still lax in their biosecurity controls, putting not just themselves at risk, but also those farms in the area that do take matters seriously. And easy as it is to blame the wildlife, the far greater risk comes from herds where bTB is endemic. The farming industry, not badgers, needs to bite the bullet.

Infected Badger Populations’

Defra talks about ‘infected badger populations’, but in all this pseudo science there is no effort to investigate how much bTB really is present among badgers. During the first two years of culling in Somerset and Gloucester, no badgers were tested for bTB. Rumour has it that an independent laboratory is now thinking of doing such a study on badgers in one of the Western Region counties but surely, if the government wants to go on claiming this is a ‘science-led policy’, it must conduct its own rigorous, unbiased and transparent investigation.

It won’t, of course.   Such a study would only demonstrate that badgers are nowhere near being a major part of the problem. Further, any government-funded reports that don’t agree with its policies may be muzzled. One can expect neither sense nor science from a government that appears to be allowing the closure of the National Wildlife Crime Agency.   For the majority of us, culling badgers is one of those crimes.

Lesley Docksey © 22/02/16