News that there has been interest in a licensed badger cull in Warwickshire has been met with 'astonishment and anger' by a county badger protection group.
Reacting to the news from Defra that farmers in Warwickshire have expressed an interest in obtaining a licence to extend existing culls into Warwickshire for the first time, the county's long-established badger group has expressed astonishment and anger and is appealing for the public to strongly oppose any such move.
Denise Taylor, Warwickshire Badger Group chair, said: "So far culls across England have resulted in almost 20,000 badgers being slaughtered, mostly shot at night by paid bounty hunters, men described by the Government as marksmen. The culls are inherently cruel, and hugely expensive, some estimates put the cost of each badger killed at around £6000, and crucially so far no convincing evidence has been produced that they are working, despite Government claims to the contrary.
"In fact, the latest Government figures show that the reverse is happening. Bovine TB is still increasing. That's not surprising for the culls are not driven by good science but by pressure
from the all too powerful farming unions and by prejudice, unsubstantiated claims that badgers are primarily to blame for disease spread.
"The slaughter used to be confined to areas of high disease levels - and it is extraordinary that a county like Warwickshire, with such low levels of disease, could even be considered for such action. The idea is a travesty. Defra should be ashamed to even consider such a move.
"A recent extensive survey carried out by consultants on behalf of Defra, of badgers killed by traffic in our county, has confirmed that effectively badgers are no threat. Of the 100 carcases examined none were found to have TB lesions and bacterial cultures showed only eight exhibited any signs of possible disease, and not necessarily bovine TB at that.
"It remains the case that bovine TB is primarily spread from cattle to cattle, with the ineffective skin test - supposed to determine whether a cow has the disease - as the biggest contributor to disease spread. It misses so much disease in a herd that many infected cattle are given a clean bill of health. They remain in the herd and pass it on to others as they overwinter for months crowded together in barns, head to tail. Recommended disease prevention measures are widely ignored by farmers, and far too many buy in what turn out to be infected cattle, often from farms with a poor TB history."
Denise Taylor said her group was urging everyone with an interest in protecting the badger, a fascinating iconic animal, to write both to their MP and to Environment Secretary Michael
Gove, challenging Defra's claims that the culls are working and demanding that Warwickshire remains exempt from any further culls.