Tag Archives: dorset

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

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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

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Leaked Report Declares Badger Cull Ineffective and Inhumane

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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.

Hey, NFU, Have a Heart for Badgers!

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DBBW at NFUSupporters of Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare, some dressed as badgers, delivered a giant Valentine’s Day card to the Dorchester offices of the National Farmers Union (NFU) urging them to “have a heart for badgers” on Valentines Day.

The NFU are lobbying for a mass cull of badgers, under the guise of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Last year trial culls were undertaken in Somerset and Gloucestershire to ascertain if shooting free-running badgers was feasible and “humane”. At present the evidence points to the trials being a shambles, falling far short of their intended targets and causing significant harm to wildlife and local communities alike. Further more, a government-funded 10-year randomised badger culling trial produced clear evidence to show that badgers were not a significant vector for transmitting bTB to cattle and that improved cattle movement controls and biosecurity on farms was the key to managing the disease.

Wildlife and conservation groups as well as progressive farmers are backing humane, effective and scientifically sound vaccination of badgers, with herd immunity achievable in just 5 years. The Dorset Badger Vaccination Project (www.dbvp.org) is offering low-cost badger vaccination to all Dorset farmers and landowners as a cheaper and more effective alternative to culling.

Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare says:

We’re asking the NFU to stop playing political games, to review the scientific evidence which shows culling badgers is a waste of time, and to embrace modern, humane and effective vaccination instead. Having a heart for badgers means recognising that they are an important part of the British countryside, that their welfare and the welfare of cattle requires long term solutions such as vaccination and better farm management practices, not short term appeasements like culling which has been shown will make matters worse for all concerned.

Dorset Badger Vaccination Project Launches

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Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare are proud to support the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project, which will be part of Brian May’s Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative. The project will offer low-cost vaccination of badgers as a humane and scientific alternative to culling.

From the DBVP website:

Professionally Trained Vaccinators will be Helping Dorset Farmers, Cattle and Wildlife in the Battle Against Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB). The Dorset Badger Vaccination Project (DBVP) has been set up by local people who have been trained by the DEFRA-funded Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) in the trapping, vaccination and release of badgers.

At the launch event at the Houses of Parliament Brian May said:

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at those of us who have been trying to save badgers for the last three years is that ‘something has to be done and you are advocating nothing. Well we are advocating something very, very positive. It seems that what is being done at the moment is actually making things worse. Vaccination is, in the end, the only way of eradicating the disease. We hope all those people genuinely in search of a solution will put aside their differences to support BACVI. In theory we have a bit of Government support already because they are going to supply the vaccine. And we hope that in the end, when the IEP (the independent expert panel reviewing the cull pilots) comes in – which we suspect will confirm that the pilots weren’t effective – the Government will start leaning towards vaccination.

So It Begins. It’s Time To Step Up Our Game

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badgers in setThe killing has started in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Badgers are being shot with high-powered rifles in the dead of night, some will be killed outright, others will be left wounded. Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of compassionate people to lobby, leaflet and campaign, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that killing badgers will not make any meaningful difference to TB in cattle, the government have forged ahead with their mindless plans. The only hope left for those badgers in the firing line are people willing to go out into the countryside and be a visible presence in the cull zones. It’s a monumental task, a needle in a haystack search of hundreds of square miles, looking out for the vehicles, lights in the darkness and the sound of gunfire. The more people willing to undertake this task the fewer badgers will suffer and die. There are nightly patrols in both counties. Somerset Badger Patrol and the Wounded Badger Patrol in Gloucestershire need your help now. Meeting points are posted daily. Lifts are being organised from all over the UK. We encourage all of our supporters to support these efforts in any way they can.

In Dorset we are doing all we can to make sure that if the cull comes here we are ready. Sett surveying is under way but we need help to make sure we know where the badger setts in the provisional cull zones are. So far these have only been identified as East Dorset and North Dorset. These are huge areas to cover and there is still much to be done. There is also a Dorset Wounded Badger Patrol getting together people who pledge to undertake patrols if and when the cull begins in Dorset. We will begin training for these patrols in the coming months. We welcome new members and continue to have public leafleting events and meetings (see the sidebar to the right for details for dates). Finally, we are setting up a vaccination programme so we can offer low-cost vaccination of badgers to anyone within the proposed cull zones.

We all need to do what we can. All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Conservative Councillors Hijack Vote on Badger Cull

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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.

Dorset County Council to Vote on Badger Cull

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ballot boxA motion has been put forward for a vote at the Dorset County Council meeting on Thursday 18 July. It proposes that the council take a stand against culling badgers and that it objects to badgers being culled on council-owned land.

The motion reads as follows:

Notice of Motion by Dan Brember, County Council Member for Rodwell, under Standing Order 15 – Animal Welfare and Economic Impact that Bovine TB has on the Farming Community To consider the following motion submitted by Dan Brember:

‘This Council recognises the serious and damaging animal welfare and economic impact that Bovine TB has on the farming community.
This Council also notes that the Government’s ‘solution’ to bTB is shooting large numbers of free running badgers at night; a proposal that has met fierce criticism from the public, eminent scientists and animal welfare charities.

This Council is concerned that the Government has ignored public, parliamentary and scientific opinion by ploughing ahead with badger cull this summer in a cruel and ineffective attempt to tackle bTB.

This Council believes that the Government would better serve the farming community by investing money in vaccinations for badgers and cattle and encourage farmers to improve bio-security in order to achieve the long-term eradication of the disease in livestock. This Council resolves to write to Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs to: Highlight the Council’s concern about the practicalities as well as the welfare implications of the current proposed cull. Object to the cull taking place on Council-owned land. Call on the Government to seek alternative methods to tackle the problem of bTB.’

Dorset for Badger and Bovine welfare support this excellent motion and urge Councillors to vote in its favour.

We do not support the briefing paper that was attached to the motion by the Director of Environment Miles Butler. In it he ignores the fierce criticism that the badger cull has come under from those scientists who have studied and carried out long term trials and instead cherry-picks quotes (many now out of date) to support the government’s pro-cull position. In addition, he strongly infers that opposition to the cull is only a moral issue, discounting the strong scientific basis for challenging culling.

Please write to your County Councillor today and urge them to support Councillor Brember’s motion. You can find contact details for your councillor here.