A Jab Well Done
Shropshire Badger Group have described as “a resounding success” their first full year of offering free badger vaccinations against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to farmers and landowners around the county. Bovine tuberculosis is a serious, slow-growing respiratory disease of cattle which can also be transmitted to wildlife.
“Needled” by the fact that thousands of perfectly healthy badgers had already been experimentally slaughtered in parts of Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset as part of Government attempts to fight cattle TB, and appalled at the prospect of hired gunmen roaming around their local countryside at night if the badger cull were brought to Shropshire, the unpaid volunteers of Shropshire Badger Group decided in 2014 to put their expertise, resources and funds into their own badger vaccination scheme.
A total of 41 badgers across 9 sites around Shropshire have now been vaccinated during 2015 by specially trained and licensed volunteer vaccinators and their assistants, all members of Shropshire Badger Group.
A spokesman for the Group explained that the work involved braving steep hillsides, unsociable hours, and weather conditions that ranged from blistering sunshine to torrential downpours.
The spokesman continued: “Government research has shown that not only does vaccination significantly reduce the direct risk of an individual badger developing the disease, but it also provides some indirect immunity to unvaccinated badger cubs. Not every individual badger needs to be given the vaccine, which is similar to the BCG vaccine used in humans. If more than a third of the adult badgers in a social group are vaccinated, the risk of the disease developing in unvaccinated cubs is reduced by 79% and this means that eventually the total badger population is likely to become immune to TB.”
The badger vaccination initiative had already been publicly endorsed by Shropshire NFU representative Oliver Cartwright, and just last month it received the personal blessing of North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson live on air during Radio Shropshire’s ‘In the Hot Seat’ programme with presenter Jim Hawkins.
Shropshire Badger Group’s spokesman summarised: “We are dismayed and disappointed by the continuing delays in implementing the obvious solution to bovine TB, which is to vaccinate the cattle themselves. We know that there is a scientifically proven cattle vaccine available, but that its deployment is being obstructed by political shenanigans. That’s why we brought in our own badger vaccination programme and we shall be continuing with it in 2016. We believe our scheme makes a positive contribution in the fight to control bovine TB and to help the farming community. We are always keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved with our work in any way, including donations from well-wishers. We can be contacted via our helpline on 01743 271999, our website www.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk, our Facebook page, or even our Twitter account @shropsbadgers.”
The Hereford Badger Group held a protest yesterday (21st November 2015) against the possible rollout of the government’s badger cull to the county next year.
Dominic Dyer, Badger Trust chief executive, Mark Jones, a vet with Born Free Foundation and Lynn Sawyer, an activist, all spoke to the crowds who turned out to make their voice heard.
Despite the lack of success –on any criteria – of the government’s previous ‘trial’culls in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset, it still seems hell bent on rolling out the flawed and cruel measure to other counties.
Lynn Sawyer urged local people to get out and get to know their local setts, to keep an eye on them and report any unusual or suspect activity BEFORE any cull starts, so that they can be well prepared to defend their local badgers if and when the time comes.
The BBC reported on its website that campaigners started the march around town at 1pm, followed by speakers and discussion at Castle Green.
Nigel Tolly, from West Midlands Badger Group, which joined the protest, said they wanted to recruit people to take part in a lawful, peaceful protest during a cull if it was rolled out to Hereford.
"The idea of the event is to bring public awareness of the fact that a badger cull could be rolled out into Hereford next year," he said.
Writing on the Guardian's Letters page on Wednesday, scientific experts said the badger cull is flawed, and called for it to end.
Professors John Krebs and John Bourne, and Dr Chris Cheeseman, among many other experts in their field wrote an open letter calling on the government to reconsider its decision to continue and extend the badger culls.
You can read their letter here.
A badger cull has begun today (Friday 4th September) in Dorset, for the first time, and has restarted in Gloucestershire and Somerset for the third year running.
Despite the evidence that the culls so far have been ineffective, as well as inhumane, the cull has been rolled out to Dorset.
An article on the Guardian's website quotes Claire Bass of Humane Society International: “For a third year running these supposedly protected animals will be subjected to a cruel and pointless death, scapegoats of the government’s failed cattle TB policy. We will continue to campaign to end this inhumane and unscientific massacre.”
Campaigners in Gloucestershire have already reported finding a badger with a gunshot wound, which died shortly afterwards.
You can read Damian Carrington's full story here.
The Badger Trust has today (3rd August) issued a press release detailing a new short film on YouTube in which Steve Backshall speaks out to oppose further culling.
“Stop ignoring science and killing badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, says naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall”As the government prepares to make a decision on the continuation and possible extension of its highly controversial badger culling policy, leading naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall has given his support to the Badger Trust in opposing any more killing of badgers. In a film exclusively produced for the Badger Trust Steve Backshall said: "Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea.
Science is how the modern world works , it’s how our cars drive and how our smart phones work. Relying on the scientific method is what makes our world go round.
“The way the government is doing things at the moment, small scale badly organised badger culls, is making the problem of bovine TB worse, this has been proven by science.
“The only way you can really effectively contain bovine TB is not through badger culling, but by improved animal husbandry and through the development of a cattle vaccine."
Responding to the film the CEO of the Badger Trust said: "We are hugely grateful to Steve Backshall for using his expertise and influence to support our campaign to stop the badger cull, which has been a disastrous failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.
“Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. However, the real scandal is that nearly all the badgers killed will not have had TB. Defra’s own data suggests just 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease whilst 85% are likely to have been completely TB free*. The government’s continued refusal to test the badgers for TB not only makes this a ‘blind’ cull but also means we will never be able to say whether it has worked.
“The pilot culls were set up to test the efficiency and humaneness of free shooting of badgers at night by trained marksmen. On this basis they have also been a failure, as free shooting has proved highly ineffective and has been found to be inhumane by both the government's own Independent Expert Panel and more recently the British Veterinary Association. “The only way to beat bovine TB is to stop playing the badger blame game and to follow the Welsh Government approach, by focusing on disease control in cattle. “The Chief Vet in Wales recently announced that new incidents of TB in cattle in Wales had fallen by 28% resulting in a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered for TB. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of TB, without the culling of any badgers.”
The film can be viewed on this YouTube link.
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