Tag Archives: bTB

Cligg’s Clangers – Lesley Docksey reviews the threat from the proposed roll out of the badger cull to Dorset

Standard

Dorset’s wildlife campaigners are working flat out to prepare for a possible badger cull – leafleting and informing the public, fundraising, sett mapping, buying necessary equipment to help them conduct wounded badger patrols in the dark and all the rest. A huge exercise in logistics which they hope will not be needed.

A few days ago the NFU announced it had formally requested Natural England for licences to cull badgers in Dorset. This is supposedly to control bovine TB. But are Natural England, Defra, the media and Dorset’s pro-culling farmers taking any notice of the figures that demonstrate how unnecessary a cull would be? No.

Let’s be clear, bovine TB is a problem, and for various reasons has increased in our herds since it was almost eradicated in the 1960s. But it infects maybe 0.4 percent of cattle in the United Kingdom. Many more cattle are needlessly slaughtered because of lameness, mastitis and other problems, a result of the demands we make on the animals.

The NFU has long been a champion of culling badgers. Though they state that ‘dealing with the problem in wildlife’ is just one of the many ‘tools in the box’ being used to control bTB, they don’t seem too keen on using those controls. As we shall see.

In 2012 Dorset farmer Paul Gould became chair of the Dorset branch of the NFU. He immediately called for a badger cull, since when there has been a constant stream of ‘news’ releases from him in the local media. This became manic when his own herd fell victim to bTB in April 2014. The NFU Chair Meurig Raymond visited his farm and between them they sold the story that only the badgers must have been the source of the disease.

But were badgers the source? Jay Tiernan and Stop the Cull did some research. They found that:

  • Gould’s herd had tested free 6 months later
  • That a neighbouring farm had had a bTB breakdown a few months before
  • That the neighbour’s cattle used fields adjacent to Gould’s fields. Both herds could have had nose-to-nose contact.
  • Both farms are now clear of bTB without culling badgers.

Naturally, none of this was mentioned by the NFU. Equally naturally, Mr Gould will be in charge of any badger cull that takes place.

Gould’s successor at Dorset NFU, Trevor Cligg, is just as keen for a cull, and has carried on the disinformation campaign to persuade Dorset how necessary a badger cull is. Considering how easy it is to disprove what he says, it is remarkable that he has been allowed to get away with such outrageous statements. For example:

In May this year, at an Environment & Wildlife general election hustings, he claimed that bovine TB was ‘rife’ in Dorset. In July on Radio Solent he said that “there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers.” No studies have been done that support this. Dorset’s badger vaccinators confirm they have never seen any diseased badgers, and that countrywide there has only been one incident of vaccinators calling out a vet – for a badger with a broken leg,

In August he claimed that “cases of TB have increased more in Dorset than any other part of the country in the last three years.” When challenged on this he said he was “using Animal and Plant Health Agency statistics”. But these are the figures which form Defra’s bTB statistics, updated every month. And what do they say?

In 2014 a total of 31,733 TB-infected cattle were slaughtered in the UK. Dorset contributed all of 744 to that number, a tiny 2.3 percent. The total slaughtered in the Western Region was 17,017. Dorset’s share was 4.37 percent. How ‘rife’ is that?

Compared to this, the slaughter rates for Somerset were 1,576; for Gloucester 1,153; for Devon 5,861; and Cornwall 2,875.

As annual testing is now the norm for the Western region, the number of bTB tests on Dorset cattle has almost doubled since 2008. Between January 2012 and December 2014, this has resulted in:

new incidents of bTB having dropped by 12 percent
herds under restriction having dropped by 13 percent
and the number of TB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25 percent

All of this has been achieved without culling badgers. One should also point out that for almost all the Western Region counties, the slaughter rate has dropped over the same period, although in Somerset there are sight signs of an increase because of perturbation of the badger population, due to – badger culling!

These figures are totally at odds with what Trevor Cligg and the NFU have been claiming, and they prove that there is no justification for a badger cull in Dorset (or, I would add, anywhere else).

And what of all the other measures that can reduce bTB, like annual testing, strict bio-security on farms and markets, and strict cattle movement controls? How good are Paul Gould and Trevor Cligg at implementing the bio-security measures as advised by Defra? These would include fencing off badger setts, preventing wildlife access to farm buildings, and double-fencing fields to prevent physical contact between cattle.

Sarah King from Badger Guardians pointed to standards of bio-security on Paul Gould’s farm. “Mr Gould said on TV he’d done everything possible to keep badgers away from his cows. But this isn’t correct. Some of his cattle sheds are open to any wildlife which wants to wander in and badger setts on his farm haven’t been fenced off. He’s ignoring Defra’s key recommendations for minimising contact between badgers and cattle.”

And her colleague Andy Hamilton confirmed cattle belonging to Gould’s neighbour were still using fields next to Gould’s, and that no double fencing had been installed. He added that he had walked past Trevor Cligg’s farm just over a month ago. “No attempt had been made to prevent wildlife entering calf pens, clearly visible from the public road. Since neither past nor present Dorset NFU Chairmen has adopted Defra’s simplest recommendations it suggests they don’t believe badgers spread TB.”

This article is by Lesley Docksey from Brian Mays’ Save Me www.save-me.org.uk (with thanks to Jay Tiernan and Andy Hamilton)

Lesley Docksey © 09/08/15

Advertisements

It’s About to Begin Again – Time To Get Into The Field and Stop The Slaughter

Standard

A badgerOne year on and it’s time to get back into the field to stop the culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Since Somerset is closest to Dorset, we will be focusing our support there. Last year car-loads of supporters from Dorset were out in the zone, and this year we want to make sure even more people are involved.

For those wanting to walk the footpaths then the Somerset Badger Patrol is for you. You can follow them and get updates on Facebook or via their website. They meet at a central location every night and walk on public rights of way in large visible groups throughout the cull zone. 

Dorset Hunt Sabs will also be in the zone every night and need as many people in the field as possible. The simple fact is that if people are in the immediate vicinity of shooters, then the shooters MUST pack up and move on. This is truly lifesaving work, so if you feel you are able to help please contact them. They will have experienced people who know the area leading small covert groups. They also have much of the equipment needed but are in need of support to get one essential bit of kit – a thermal imager, which you can help fund here.

Although Dorset has been spared the cull for now, we cannot let our guard down, a cull could be sprung on us at any time, since all the formalities have already been done and the NFU propaganda machine is working in overdrive pushing for a cull in Dorset. One of the things that will make a cull less likely is to have a strong vaccination programme running in the county, which is why we strongly support the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project, who are doing incredible work. Please support them so that in the coming months they can make sure more of Dorset’s badgers are protected from bTB and the cull.

However you can help, now is the time to get active and involved. Please show your support and let’s make sure this year’s culls are even more pointless than last and that we put an end to this whole sorry mess once and for all.

Badger Defenders Take Over Dorchester

Standard

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They gathered in Borough Gardens, first just a few, then dozens and then hundreds, all with one purpose and one voice: to stop the badger cull! The marchers filled the streets of Dorchester, the drums beat time, the town crier announced us and the Badger Trust’s Dominic Dyer explained why we were there. It was a wonderful sight and even better sound as the streets echoed with the refrain “Save Our Badgers, Stop The Cull!” After an hour on the streets we all returned to Borough Gardens for amazing food from Fairfoods and great music for Dorset bands The High C’s and Sketchy Dog. To all those who came and to all those who made it happen, thank you. Together we are an unstoppable force, and we’re only just getting started!

Dorchester March Against The Cull

Standard

Dorch march flyer frontWe are very excited to announce a march against the badger cull followed by a party in the park in Dorchester on Saturday 17 May, 12pm to 3pm, Borough Gardens.

First and foremost, this march is to support our friends in Somerset and Gloucestershire who face yet another tough Summer spent protecting badgers. We will be organising teams to go and support them during this incredibly stressful but crucial time. In Dorset we will be focusing on promoting badger vaccination and are pleased to have a speaker from the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project, as well as other special guests.

The fact that the badger cull has not been rolled out to Dorset this year is a huge victory for everyone who has been fighting against this insane policy, so we felt celebrations were in order. After the march Fairfoods catering will be serving delicious veggie food and there will be live music from some of Dorset’s finest bands. Borough gardens is a lovely spot and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for sunshine.

We ask that everyone assemble in Borough Gardens (DT1 1RE – see map below for location and nearest car parks) at 12pm, ready to march through town at 12:30pm. We aim to be back in Borough Gardens for 1:30pm, where we will have food and music until 3pm.

Please help us spread the word by sharing this blog post and if you’re on Facebook please join and share the event page. You can also download a poster advertising this march, either in colour or b&w, as well as a double-sided A5 flyer. We also have professionally printed copies of these materials that we can send you to distribute in your area.

See you there!

map cp

Badger Groups in South West Join Forces, Pledge to Stop The Cull

Standard

ex1

Grassroots groups working on the ground to stop the badger cull have joined forces under the South West Alliance for Badgers (SWAB). Sharing skills, resources and information the alliance formed after news that the unscientific, inhumane and ineffective culls from last year will be continued in Somerset and Gloucestershire. News that Dorset will be spared for now is a huge relief for the county and Dorset campaigners have pledged their full support to groups in the cull zones.

A statement released today by South West Alliance for Badgers reads:

The evidence is in and couldn’t be clearer; killing badgers as a means to tackle bovine TB is ineffective and inhumane, yet the government is ignoring the science, the will of the public and that of parliament. It is clearly working to a political agenda rather than a practical or scientific one.

The cull has not only failed to provide the results claimed for it but has proved hugely more expensive to taxpayers and farmers than vaccinating badgers and potentially other alternative methods of controlling bTB in cattle. It has also caused huge divisions within the community and imposed enormous costs and operational problems for the police.

The government has consistently misrepresented the facts and the need for culling, concealing the information that UK herd infections were already decreasing prior to the pilot culls due to improved testing and cattle controls alone. Badgers have been virtually eradicated in some areas of the Republic of Ireland but this has proved no more effective in reducing cattle infections than in Northern Ireland where no badgers have been killed. However, results from Wales, where the new cattle controls have been combined with badger vaccination, have proved that this is by far the fastest, most effective and humane method of controlling bTB in cattle.

As groups concerned with animal welfare and wildlife conservation in the South West we cannot sit by and allow this pointless slaughter to continue. As with the ‘pilot’ culls last year, we will be back in the field saving as many badgers lives as we can, and we will be doing so with increased numbers, and increased determination.

In the meantime we will continue to support the many local and national badger vaccination schemes giving farmers, land-owners and councils a clear choice: either opt for unpopular, unscientific and ineffective killing, or choose a humane, scientifically proven, effective and cheaper route: vaccination of badgers.

This statement will be released by each of the member groups of SWAB and communicated to their members and is the first step in greater cooperation between the frontline grassroots groups in the South West.

South West Alliance for Badgers (SWAB) currently consists of:

Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare

Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting

Somerset Against the Cull

Leaked Report Declares Badger Cull Ineffective and Inhumane

Standard

the newsFollowing a leaked report from the Independent Panel of Experts (IEP) showing that trial badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset had been an abject failure, we are calling for the culls to be abandoned and released this statement:

It was clear months ago that the culls were failing to reach key targets set by the Coalition Government, despite repeated denials by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, DEFRA and the NFU. Now the Independent Panel of Experts set up by the Government to review the results of the culls have confirmed everything we have been saying.

The IEP concluded that the culls  fell far short of the target numbers of badgers killed, even after extending both culls beyond six weeks, yet Owen Paterson had hailed them as a success. Many leading scientists and wildlife experts believe the failure of the culls could actually worsen the spread of TB. The Panel also found that the culls were not humane. Owen Paterson, without waiting for the Panel to report, claimed months ago that they were. According to Natural England Compliance Monitors some badgers took five minutes or more to die in agony after being shot.

The scientific facts were manipulated to suit the policy. DEFRA has also now admitted that both badger populations and TB rates in cattle were grossly overstated. Badger numbers were falling, not ‘soaring out of control’, which is what the Environment Secretary claimed. The three rotten planks shoring up this ramshackle policy have therefore collapsed.

The cull policy has been shot full of more holes than the unfortunate badgers who needlessly died. It is clearly time to abandon this unjustified and unpopular slaughter and implement other measures which have been found effective elsewhere, such as in Wales where a programme of badger vaccination, tighter bio-security on farms and cattle movements has produced a far more positive result for farmers than the two culls in England did.

In Dorset farmers and land owners have a clear choice, either pay for costly, ineffective and enormously unpopular mass slaughter of badgers, or opt for much cheaper, scientifically proven and humane vaccination of badgers through the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project.

Conservative Councillors Hijack Vote on Badger Cull

Standard

COUNCIL CHEATEDIn the immortal words of Johnny Rotten, ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Today a motion by Councillor Dan Brember was put before Dorset County Council for debate and a vote. A strongly worded rebuke of government’s badger culling policy and a plea to use a science-based approach to tackle bTB, the motion was always going to raise the hackles of certain councillors. Still, there was hope at least for a vigorous debate and a show of support from those councillors who understood and appreciated the overwhelming scientific consensus that killing badgers is not the solution to addressing TB in cattle. Sadly the Conservative majority had no intention of even allowing this motion to be debated.

Before the debate began, Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare challenged the report from the Director of Environment, which had been sent to all Councillors along with the motion. The question we posed was:

 Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare are a group of local people who oppose the culling of badgers on both moral and scientific grounds and promote vaccination and improved welfare and biosecurity on farms as an effective and humane means of dealing with TB in both cattle and badgers. We support Councillor Brember’s motion to the Council, but take issue with the briefing note in your agenda papers. It suggests that scientific consensus, especially from those involved in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), supports the current badger culling programme being rolled out by the government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The quotes used in the briefing paper are woefully out of date. Quoted in The Guardian on 13 October 2012, Prof Lord Krebs, architect of the RBCT, states “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.” We contend that the briefing paper is also cherry-picking data to support the governments case. In addition, lead scientist of the RBCT Professor John Bourne contends that scientific opinion is overwhelmingly against the cull and states, “I just don’t know anyone who is really informed who thinks this is a good idea”. Given that current scientific consensus, especially among those scientists who were behind the £50m ten-year-long Randomised Badger Culling Trial, is now firmly against culling badgers, why is it that the briefing paper appears to paint the opposite picture?

The disappointing reply that came back was, “Given that the cull is being instigated by a government department, it is only right that the evidence used by the government to support its action is presented to the County Council”. Right, no matter whether that ‘evidence’ is based on sound science or not? The Cabinet Member for Environment went on to claim “there is a lack of published data to support the suggestion that culling will not reduce the incidence of bovine TB. It is for that reason that no counter argument is presented”. It’s difficult to know where to begin when dealing with such blatant misinformation, so we’ll leave this for another day, it requires a much fuller, dedicated, post. Back to the “debate”.

No sooner had Dan Brember introduced his motion when Conservative Councillor Hillary Cox proposed an “amendment”. To call this an amendment is like calling the new Council building in Charles Street an annex. This was a gutting that ripped out the heart of the motion and replaced it with straw. Here’s what Councillor Cox proposed:

To delete al words in the motion after “damaging” in line one, ands to substitute the following words in bold:

“This Council recognises the serious and damaging impact which bovine TB has on animal welfare and the economics of farming.

The County Council also recognises that dealing with the problem of bovine TB is a matter for the Government and Parliament at national level and, locally, for the County Council’s tenant farmers under the conditions of their tenancies. 

The Council urges the Government to be led by the best available science in finding a solution to the problems associated with bovine TB and. when implementing a solution, to ensure that it is the most humane available.”

The Chairman then directed Councillors to now only debate and comment on this amendment, which would then be up for a vote. Now it’s important at this stage to point out that Dorset for Badger and Bovine welfare is not party political, but the way this played out was certainly party politics at its worst. The makeup of Dorset County Council is as follows; the Chair, Leader of the Council, Deputy and all Cabinet members are Conservative. There are a total of 27 Conservative Councillors; the total remaining Councillors number 18. Voting as a block, the Conservative Councillors effectively shut out all debate on the most pertinent issues and didn’t allow for the original motion, which had significant non-Conservative support, to get the airing it deserved. The original motion was never even voted on, instead the weakened toothless amended motion was passed, 26 to 12.

Today it wasn’t just badgers, bovines and science that lost out, it was democracy itself.