Tuesday 10 September 2019

Vet says badger culls caused 'immense pain'

By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News

9 September 2019

Up to 9,000 of badgers are likely to have suffered "immense pain" in culls to control cattle TB, according to a former government adviser.

Prof Ranald Munro is the ex-Chair of an independent expert group appointed by the government to assess its trials.

He has written to Natural England to say that the policy is causing "huge suffering".

He adds that the culls are not reducing TB in cattle and in one area the incidence of the disease has gone up.

The culls began in 2012 following appeals from cattle farmers whose livelihoods are continuing to be damaged by the spread of TB.

Prof Munro's independent expert group found that up 23% of badgers took more than five minutes to die after they were shot. These figures prompted the group to conclude that the culls were inhumane in its assessment report to government. This document's publication was delayed but its contents were revealed by BBC News in 2014.

The independent expert group was disbanded by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ministers, who said that its work had been completed - though this was against the wishes of many of the experts involved, with one claiming that ministers were "wilfully" ignoring scientific advice.

Speaking ahead of the expected announcement of new culling areas for 2019 later this week, Prof Munro estimates that 40,000 badgers have been culled so far which according to the expert group's figures equates to thousands of them dying slowly.

"The numbers are huge, they really are. If you look at the likelihood of not dying within five minutes of being shot, you are looking at 3,000 badgers having suffered immense pain at a minimum. It could be as high as 9,000. There is a huge issue of suffering in these badgers."

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