Badger cull deemed ineffective

The Independent Expert Panel assessing last year’s badger cull has found that it was ineffective and failed its own humaneness test.

28th February 2014

The Independent Expert Panel assessing last year’s badger cull has found that it was ineffective and failed its own humaneness test.

The 2013 badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire were planned to last six weeks but were extended in an attempt to meet culling targets.

However, the Independent Expert Panel is only assessing badgers culled in the first six weeks.

The humaneness test proposed that no more than 5% of badgers killed should take more than 5 minutes to die.

Of those that were culled in that period, up to 18% were found to have taken longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness.

The Guardian reported that a third of the badgers were shot in the wrong part of the body (Defra stating the heart and lung area should be targeted in a 2013 guidance paper) and two out of nine had to be shot twice, having not died instantly.

Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a scientist at the Zoological Society of London, told the BBC that the panel's findings “show unequivocally that the culls were not effective and that they failed to meet the humaneness criteria.

“I hope this will lead to the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson) to focus on other ways of eradicating TB in cattle”

Research carried out previously by Prof Woodroffe and others in the Randomised Badger Cull Trail found that if the cull’s target of 70% was not met, the spread of TB amongst cattle could actually increase.

Initial assessments suggested that only 58% of the population had been culled in Somerset, and 30% in Gloucestershire, resulting in the extension of the cull on the advice of Chief Vet, Nigel Gibbens.

However the Independent Expert Panel suggest the figures are perhaps a low as less than half in both pilot cull areas.

The culls were authorised by Defra and Natural England.

A Defra spokesman said: “We knew there’d be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls which is why we’re looking forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations for improving the way they are carried out, because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease.”

Andy Robertson, director general of the National Farmers' Union, told the BBC he could not comment on the contents of the Independent Expert Panel report until it was officially published. However, he stressed the threat TB in cattle posed to his members.

"More than 30,000 cattle were killed in the first 11 months of 2013 because of the disease. It is vital that we do everything we can to tackle the disease. Badgers play a key role in spreading bovine TB and so it's essential that any TB eradication policy must include a targeted cull of badgers in those areas where TB is rife."

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