Government criticised over pointless deaths of hundreds more badgers as it claims cull is a success and extends roll out

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Thursday, 17 December, 2015
London

Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the hundreds of pointless badger deaths confirmed in the recent cull in three areas of the country and the Government’s decision to further roll out the badger cull.

Despite failing to meet minimum targets in the first two years of culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, this year the Government also rolled out the controversial cull to Dorset.

For 2015 the Government dramatically scaled back the minimum targets that would be needed to claim the cull a success. For example, in Somerset the minimum target was reduced to a mere 55 badgers, while in Gloucestershire the target in 2014 was to kill 615 badgers (which was missed by 341), but this year the minimum target was reduced to less than half that number, just 265.

The results for this year have now been released (on the day that MPs began their recess). In Somerset a total of 279 badgers were culled, in Gloucestershire the number was 432 and in Dorset this was 756.

DEFRA set a target for the total number of badgers to be culled in all three areas combined at between 935 and 2,038. Despite this, since the culls began no research has ever been carried out to determine how many, if any, of the dead badgers actually carried bovine TB.

UK Director of IFAW, Philip Mansbridge, said: “Of course the Government is claiming success because the minimum number of badger deaths has been achieved – that’s simply because they moved the goalposts and drastically reduced the targets. However, it is not a success by any other measure, and leading experts, scientists and vets repeatedly condemn the badger cull as ineffective and inhumane.

“The Government is naturally shouting much less about the latest figures that show that new TB incidences have actually gone up by 7.75% in Somerset, despite badger culling having taken place in that region since the cull began. If badgers do have a role in the spread of bovine TB they are only a small piece of the puzzle. Badger vaccination is massively cheaper than the ludicrous price tag of more than £7,000 per badger killed last year. It is ludicrous for the Government to be using these reduced targets to justify a roll out of the cull.

“Ultimately though, we need to stop this cruel and pointless badger cull and focus on the long-term solution of a vaccine for cattle.”

Earlier this year the British Veterinary Association (BVA) echoed the Government's Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in condemning the free shooting method of killing badgers as 'inhumane', but free shooting continued. Despite this, in this year’s culls free shooting accounted for over 50% of all badgers killed and fewer than 2% of the total badgers killed in the cull underwent post mortem examinations (PMEs), all of which were from a single cull region.

During the six-week period of badger culling this year, countless volunteers joined Wounded Badger Patrols in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset, to offer help and assistance to badgers injured in the cull.

Animal welfare campaigners are calling on more people to get involved with local badger protection groups in advance of the prospect of a wider roll-out of the badger cull next year. Currently DEFRA requires 70 per cent of landowners to give permission to cull on their land in any cull area in order to proceed, but they are now proposing to reduce the minimum consent figure further, which would make it easier to expand the cull even wider across the country.

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For further information please contact the IFAW Press Office:

Ally MacDonald; Email: amacdonald@ifaw.org; Tel: 0207 587 6725 /  07860 755 876

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos of our work are available at www.ifawimages.com

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