Cull or slaughter?

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First an admission. I didn’t pay attention to the plight of the Welsh badgers. Not that I’m not interested or concerned. I just didn’t believe that in 21st century Britain this sort of cull would ever be sanctioned. How wrong I was.

Well, the issue has my full attention now. I hope it will get yours too. By joining together with those already fighting and comitted to the cause of badgers – Welsh or otherwise – we can hopefully bring some sanity and humanity to bear on this desperate situation.

the bTB epidemic which began in the 1930s and went on to infect 40% of the national herd was resolved in the late 1960s by a series of cattle control measures — without one badger being killed or implicated.

Although beleaguered by farmers and condemned by Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, the badgers are not without friends.

Perhaps chief amongst the badger supporting ranks is The Badger Trust. Formed from a federation smaller groups in 2005 the Trust works to promote and enhance badger welfare including the conservation and protection of badgers, their setts and their habitats for the public benefit.

In addition to providing expert advice Government, the police and other conservation and welfare organisations, the Trust is committed to using all lawful means to campaign for the improved protection of badgers.

The Badger Trust sees the Welsh Assembly’s move in favour of a badger “cull” — slaughter is a more apt description — as perverse, politically motivated, and without any significant scientific validation.

What it is referring to there is: the evidence of our own recent history; the best, peer-reviewed scientific evidence; and commonsense; which all show this cull to be a flawed, futile and indeed irrational decision.

History? Well yes. You see the bTB epidemic which began in the 1930s and went on to infect 40% of the national herd was resolved in the late 1960s by a series of cattle control measures — without one badger being killed or implicated.

Then, as now, cattle-to-cattle spread was the root cause.

Elin Jones quotes a rise from 700 to 12,000 TB infected cattle between 1997 and 2008, citing it as a prime reason for these culls. Yes culls plural. There will be multiple slaughters. Five a year in fact. Perhaps when the badgers are on the endangered list we may look at them differently?

Yet, whilst that is a significant increase in infection, it is likely inflated by the impact of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, the aftermath of which saw Welsh farmers restocking their herds from locations that are known to TB hotspots. So the slow to spot disease has likely been spreading undetected in the herd since that time, independent of any cross-infection from the badger population.

With the cull now sanctioned and set to begin around May 2010, the Trust is steeling itself for one final battle, which it hopes will block the decision made at the Welsh Assembly. It could be the badgers’ last hope.

The Trust countered the authorising of the order to cull by immediately instructing its solicitors to serve notice of their intention to apply for a Judicial Review against this Order.

A spokesperson for the trust said:

“Our solicitors have served the required Letter before Action and a reply has been received from WAG which basically refutes our allegations.

“The next step is the formal submission to the court for approval for a Judicial Review. The paperwork for this is currently being finalised by our legal team. (I assume) the response from WAG is being completed by their legal team.”

The court will grant or refuse the application for a Judicial Review based on these submissions. If it is granted, then a March court hearing will likely be set.

At this stage indications are that a cull could not take place before May, so that means there is still time to turn this issue around. But the Badgers’ Trust needs all the help it can get if it is to sway opinion and fight the badgers’ corner.

Scientific evidence, logic and compassion all point to this being a miscarriage. You can help the badgers survive by:

No government does this in my name. Does it act thus in yours? Do nothing and it implicitly does. Act now to save the badgers.