Monday, 31 August 2015

There’s only one reason for this badger cull – votes

The latest cull is not honest, scientific or even effective at containing bovine TB. It is simply a political move to appease countryside voters

Monday 31 August 2015 14.28

Join me, dear urban dwelling, bunny-hugging Guardian reader, in setting aside your ethical and environmental concerns about killing our biggest surviving carnivorous wild animal, and follow this, the most rational case that can be made in favour of England’s badger cull.

Small dairy farmers are struggling. Bovine TB is a genuine problem in West Country hotspots and although farmers receive compensation for slaughtered cattle, it doesn’t cover their costs. Cattle and badgers transmit the disease to each other, with the latter being just one “wildlife reservoir” of a poorly understood disease that is spread by everything from pigs to deer. An eight-year scientific study estimated that a rigorous badger cull could reduce the rate of increase in cattle TB by 12-16% over nine years.

Two years ago, the government ignored that study’s conclusion (a badger cull can make “no meaningful contribution” to reducing cattle TB) to commence a four-year “pilot” badger cull in parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire. During the eight-year study, badgers were trapped in cages and shot, which is considered more humane, but the pilot’s purpose was to test the safety, efficacy and humaneness of a cheaper option – shooting free-running badgers at night. It commissioned an independent panel of scientific experts to judge this, although, to save money, decided not to test whether shot badgers actually had bovine TB or scientifically measure how the pilot cull affected cattle TB.

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