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
An open letter to EFRA, Mr David Cameron, Simon Hart MP and Mr Neil Parish MP
A great many of us are seriously concerned that the EFRA [Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] committee is using its position in government to curtail or remove the right of the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty cases, and that the motive for this move is more about preventing fox hunting prosecutions than any real concern for animal welfare.
It will be impossible to prosecute if the Charity is not allowed to investigate, and it will be difficult to investigate if the Charity then has to rely on the CPS to bring up the thousands of cases in Court. It should also be remembered that it is the right of every private citizen to seek justice through the UK Courts.
Of course there will be times when the RSPCA gets it wrong, but in the thousands of abuse cases which reach Court, there is only a handful which have been stopped and deemed not to be in the public interest. I would point out that for every case which does go to court, there are hundreds more that don’t. The problems are sorted out with RSPCA support and education and the cooperation of the animal’s owner. Sometimes the animal’s owner is reluctant or refuses to improve or take advice and that is when the RSPCA must step in for the sake of the animal.
The Charity spends around 5p in the £1 on prosecutions and the rest of the money is spent on animal housing, veterinary treatment, education and of course paying inspectors salaries. The RSPCA also saves the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds every year which it is doubtful could be matched by the CPS, especially in these times of austerity and swinging cuts to services.
The pro hunting press, ably abetted by the Countryside Alliance, are also guilty of a steady build-up of accusations of RSPCA misuse of power. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail are particularly aggressive in accusing the RSPCA of radical campaigning, promiscuous legal actions and the underhand use of funds. Yet this is at odds with ALL of the RSPCA reviews which have found the RSPCA to be acting within its remit, which is to prevent animal abuse. The Charity Commission has said on at least two occasions that the RSPCA has no case to answer.
The Heythrop prosecution is often cited by Mr Hart as a scandalous waste of money, which he claims was undertaken for political motives to embarrass the Prime Minister who has associations with the hunt. But it has never been political to uphold the law, nor is it political to prosecute cruelty. Perhaps if the Heythrop themselves had been more mindful of Mr Cameron’s reputation by association, they would have not broken the law in the first place. (Oddly the Charity’s prosecution of cruelty to horses in 2008 on Spindles Farm cost over £2,000,000, and the RSPCA was praised for their dedication and compassion.)
It is of especial concern that animals will not get the protection they need after reading Lord Ashcroft’s expose of David Cameron, who he claims, when in opposition, used his influence and asked the CPS to drop a hunting case against a member of the Heythrop hunt, and if that allegation turns out to be true, not only was Mr Cameron’s action undemocratic, but it could also be viewed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The CPS dropped the case against the hunter, which in the light of recent news reports of Mr Cameron's personal intervention does not give people confident in the CPS or the law.
The RSPCA is as respected and it is respectable, it is also unique. Britain has a reputation of being a nation of animal lovers and the majority who care do not want to see the RSPCA rendered useless because another backdoor attempt is being made to prevent hunt prosecutions.
If the EFRA committee rule that the RSPCA can no longer investigate and prosecute animal abuse, then perhaps EFRA would tell us what it intends to put in place of the Charity, and where the money will be found to carry out the investigations and to fund the court costs so that no animal is left to suffer.
Sources and resources;
Western Daily press
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting