She is also looking at how badgers may interact with cattle as well as looking at farming practices which may reduce the risk of infection spreading.
So why is this happening? Why are David Cameron and Elizabeth Truss so determined to fly in the face of science and turn their backs on badger experts, scientists, vets and most of the country?
It seems they are also flying in the face of their own better judgement too, as in December 2014 they admitted for the first time that future culls might fail because of the small overall numbers of animals killed. Undeterred, Secretary Truss, after releasing the results of the 2014 cull pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset, said she is still determined to continue culling.
DEFRA minister George Eustice has been pressured from both sides of the debate as opposition MPs demand to know what justification he has for extending the cull to Dorset, whilst at the same time, South West Devon MP Gary Streeter wants to know when Devon farmers can expect to be able to kill badgers on their farms. This is a particularly alarming situation, as there is no way of knowing that the culls last year have made any difference to the disease in cattle, yet without any evidence to show killing badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire has reduced bTB in the cattle in those counties, the government is happy to slaughter more animals in Dorset, whilst Devon is clamouring to start killing too. It is nothing short of a national scandal that this Tory Government is treating British wildlife like so much trash.
For some reason which the Government refuses to divulge, there is no independent expert review process or analysis of the safety, effectiveness or humaneness of the culling and no satisfactory explanation as to why these issues are being ignored. So we have two failed culls and a third cull underway with extended parameters to include an extra county and no information coming out of Westminster.
There are some who are hailing the previous culls a success. One such is the sacked DEFRA Secretary Owen Patterson who lost his job due to the badgers moving the goal posts in 2013. His comments are based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence from farmers who said at the end of last year that bTB outbreaks had dropped from 36 down to just 12.
People in the anti-cull camp didn’t believe those miraculous figures, so they did a little research of their own and came up with an entirely different scenario which showed that whilst there had been a slight drop, it was nothing like the grand scale of things that had fired Mr Patterson and had prompted him to make such a grandiose statement. In fact In Somerset 2013, on the day the badger cull started there were 17 herd breakdowns inside the cull zone and on the last count, on 30 June this year, there were 14. The bad news for the cull “anecdotal evidence” success story lies on the outer edge of the zones, where consensus of scientific opinion had predicted an increase due to fleeing badgers. BTB had indeed increased by 50% from 12 cases to 18 since culling had started according to the same set of government statistics. These statistics were taken from the Governments own figures.
It was hoped earlier this year that the roll out would be shelved for 2015, but Liz Truss soon quashed any hope that sanity would prevail, and farmers began applying to Natural England to sign up for a licence to kill.
In April, 2015 the British Veterinary Association dissociated from the cull saying the shooting of free-running badgers at night had not proven effective or humane. The BVA did feel that some badgers could be culled but cage trapping was more effective and certainly more humane. It is also much more expensive too.
Those against the killing are mobilised and the wounded badger patrols are out in the cull areas again. It was reported in the Western morning News that Anti-badger cull protesters are defying their leaders and breaking the law to try to prevent the killing of badgers. One farmer claims the patrollers have been trespassing to free a badger from a cage
A video posted on the Facebook page of the Gloucestershire Badger Office shows a group of saboteurs crossing private land and then releasing a badger trapped in a cage.
CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said the Trust is supporting wounded badger patrols in all three cull zones in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset. But he said protesters should operate lawfully. Teams opposed to the culls have set up camps and are walking public footpaths in all three cull areas to draw attention to the Governments flawed policy on controlling bTB.
The anti-cullers have asked for more feet on the ground saying, If you are able to come to the zones and help, please do. Somerset and Dorset especially need more people on the ground. If you live in or near the cull zones and you can spare any amount of time to help, or if you are able to travel and stay at camp, please contact the organisers.
Western Morning news
Boxing Day Hunting
The traditional torturing of harmless wildlife is almost upon us once again.
The Boxing Day hunt is the biggest event in the hunting calendar.
It’s a culmination of the cruelty, and hunts up and down the country will be parading in town squares and pub car parks getting drunk on their stirrup cups. Immaculately turned out horses and riders in their scarlet jackets and tight white pants, the dogs, tails up, milling around, looking every bit the chocolate box scene.
The images will be in all the pro-hunt press, with captions describing how noble is the tradition of hunting, in a bid to convince those of us against the sport that it is a humane and popular part of wildlife management. Of course this is all staged, like a hall of mirrors, nothing is real or as it seems.
Behind the pomp and the spectacle lies a sinister truth which the hunters and the Tory government prefer to keep secret. These deceitful people have tried every sleight of hand to overturn the hunting ban and to date every trick has failed. It has failed because hunting is a cruel and vicious blood sport which has no place in modern Britain.
Pre-ban hunts killed about 5% of all of the foxes that die in a season, and almost half of those animals are killed during cubbing when hunts encourage new fox hounds to be savage with their quarry. There are actually many less foxes in Britain than there are hedgehogs. At a static quarter of a million animals, they are not overbreeding and they are no real threat to poultry or lambs. DEFRA (Department of Environment & Rural affairs) says foxes are no more than grade 2 pests, not even pesty enough to be grade 1.
It’s not only foxes who suffer in the war for Britain’s wildlife. Anyone who stands against the cruelty is labelled an extremist or even worse a terrorist. They are mocked and humiliated on social media and even sometimes threatened. The hunt saboteurs, who will be out in force on Boxing Day, are often beaten and bullied by the hunt stewards (terrier men and women) and sometimes the riders themselves like to join in too. To avoid reprisals many saboteurs cover their faces, a practice emulated by the hunt minders who cover up so they cannot be recognised when committing acts of violence or damaging cars or stealing cameras etc. from the saboteurs, many of whom are young females.
The terrier men, or hunt heavies, who accompany the hunts and who act as their personal police force, won’t be around at the Boxing Day spectacle. To allow them to parade on their quads would spoil the image the hunters are trying to portray. Their job is to intimidate saboteurs and block pathways in order to prevent them gaining evidence of illegal hunting. The terrier men also block up badger setts so that the poor fox has nowhere to hide. If the unfortunate animals ARE able to go to ground, the terrier men dig them out and either shoot them, bludgeon them or they are thrown to the dogs.
Eighty per cent of the population, including people in rural areas, are against the horror and the cruelty of hunting, yet in spite of this the hunting ban is in great danger of repeal because most of MPs on the Tory front bench are hunting enthusiasts themselves. David Cameron has promised repeal before the end of this parliament, yet how can we let this barbaric practice become legal once again? The legislation we have today was 10 years in the making and when the Bill was eventually brought before the MPs for discussion, it took over 700 hours of Parliamentary time and so powerful and determined were the hunters that in the end the Labour Government had to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through into Law.
So what can we do?
The first thing and the most important is to join the League Against Cruel Sports and join or support the hunt saboteurs. It is also vital that everyone against this vile form of entertainment writes to their MP and explains why we must keep the ban on hunting.
Tradition is no excuse for this savage cruelty; we must fight hard because the hunters never give up.
Lamerton Hunt - Illegal Hunting? https://youtu.be/m98BSocqkfI via @YouTube
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting