We at Save Me are disappointed and profoundly saddened at the news that Theresa May’s government is to escalate its culling of badgers. In 2014 the governments own Independent Expert Panel (IEP) determined that the cull was cruel and ineffective; the panel was promptly sacked for reporting these findings. Recent new research has confirmed the conclusions of the massive RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial, 1997-2007) research document, which concluded that “culling badgers can make no appreciable contribution to the control of TB in cattle” and the government have been unable to come up with a single shred of evidence that the cull is actually working. Some sections of the farming community are now acknowledging that badger culling is a dead-end policy and are seeking solutions that directly address the transmission of the disease in the herd - this is now perceived by the vast majority of experts in the field as the real prime mechanism for the propagation of Bovine TB, not badgers. In the light of current knowledge, the governments' decision to press on with a policy which is already failing, while costing the tax-payer millions of pounds in wasted effort, is extraordinary.
Among the scientific community, badger culling has been widely predicted to make matters worse for the farmer and this prediction seems to be coming true. After years of being told that killing badgers would clear up the disease in cattle, dairy farmers still face this heartbreaking scourge with insufficient support from DEFRA. To compound matters, the cruelty and inefficiency of the badger cull program has driven a wedge between farmers and much of the public, who see the massacre of British wildlife as both inexcusable and counter-productive.
It has suited certain agencies to paint a picture of our efforts at Save Me as obstructive to farmers, but we have actually been working for the past 7 years to try to bridge the gap between farmers, scientists and animal campaigners. The issues involved in the transmission of bovine TB are complex and interested parties have become highly polarised in their accepted wisdom. Rather than take a stance of belligerence towards the pro-cull faction, we have worked with all sides on a search for a viable solution. This culminated in the first bovine TB symposium in collaboration with DEFRA last March, in which top bTB experts from all around the world met and delivered talks. Opinion from all involved was that this meeting of minds greatly improved the chances of cooperation across the board and will hasten us along the path to a TB-free Britain. Among the results was an immediate endorsement by DEFRA’s Chief Vet Nigel Gibbons for highly respected vet Dick Sibley’s innovative project in Devon based on enhanced TB testing of both cattle and badgers. This is an initiative we have been proud to support and so far the results have been spectacularly promising in cleaning up a herd, without dealing a single death to local wildlife.
In our opinion, this alternative approach is currently the most exciting prospect of all. One might have thought that if there were any reasonable doubt that the culling policy was working, it would be put on hold while evaluation took place. In fact, there is much more than reasonable doubt – yet the policy grinds on, even though it is draining farmers’ pockets too; perhaps it is hard for those who have doggedly put their faith in this as a solution to admit that a change, of course, is needed. There is certainly growing consensus that the wildly inaccurate TB skin test is the villain of the piece.
In the light of all this, it’s very disappointing that a further roll-out of this very unpopular policy has been rubber-stamped. The ray of hope is that our new Environment Minister, Michael Gove, who has a history of working with all sides to solve problems and is evidently unafraid of upsetting anyone, has committed to take a fresh look at the evidence with an open mind.
We will continue to seek the truth – and look forward to a brighter dawn for farmers, cattle and Britain’s beleaguered and completely innocent wildlife.
Brian May and Save Me.
Figures Zones & Cull Targets
On 30th August 2017 Natural England issued supplementary cull licenses, dated 25th August 2017, for the original Gloucestershire and Somerset zones. These licenses are valid until 2022 - a further five years.
In Somerset, the minimum number of badgers to be killed this year is 140 with a maximum number of 610. In Gloucestershire, the minimum number to be killed is 160 and the maximum number 580.
Our highly successful joint symposium with Defra in March this year will be reviewed early next year. Bovine TB Symposium 2017 Speakers & Program 2017
For further information: Anne Brummer CEO Save Me Trust
@anneatsaveme Tel: 01344 625800 [email protected]