As many feared, there have now been reports of the illegal shooting, poisoning and gassing of badgers in the official cull zones, the Guardian reports today (Wednesday 23 October). There have been 27 reports in Gloucestershire and Somerset, of which eight are still being investigated.
In the article, Mark Jones, executive director at the Humane Society International UK, says: "I find it unlikely that Defra and the NFU can be unaware of this very concerning problem. Badger baiting, digging out, gassing and snaring have always been a problem, but we are extremely worried that some people are viewing Defra's war on badgers as a green light to massacre these animals out of existence."
You can read the full depressing article, by the Guardian's environment editor, Damian Carrington, here.
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has perhaps shot himself in the foot, while failing to shoot the required number of badgers, with his latest assertion that the first 'trial' cull in Somerset has not succeeded because 'the badgers are moving the goalposts'.
The national press have had a field day today (10th October) with the visual image of this. The Guardian's Steve Bell has produced a memorable cartoon.
In its main story, by the environment editor Damian Carrington, the Guardian reports that the controversial cull has been branded a farce after marksmen have been forced to seek extensions in order to kill the minimum number of badgers required.
In response to a statement by the chief executive of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, that the government 'keeps moving the goalposts on how many badgers exist and how many need to be killed, Owen Paterson said: "I am not moving anything – the badgers are moving the goalposts."
The government certainly does appear to be moving the goalposts, as it has now requested an extension to the cull period in order to deliver its required number of dead badgers. Natural England is expected to rule this week on the application for an extension. They have further moved the goalposts by changing the cull method, as revealed in the Guardian on Monday. After three weeks of shooting free-running badgers in Somerset, in order to increase the kill rate the government suddenly rushed in cage-trapping and shooting, which was not meant to be a part of the cull.
You can read the full Guardian story here.
The Badger Trust has today (10th October) issued a press release condemning the government's farcical cull, in the light of the news that fewer badgers have been killed than they hoped for, and that the cull periods may be extended.
The press release is headlined: THIS DEADLY PANTOMIME MUST STOP NOW
"The Coalition's badger culling trials are collapsing into chaos with official guesses at population likely to be cut yet again, says the Badger Trust. This, with the appalling news that the six-week periods of the pilot culls are likely to be further stretched means Ministers are gerrymandering key scientific conditions. They are again seeking to placate a petulant and vengeful cattle industry which ignores science and denies its own past shortcomings in letting bovine tuberculosis (bTB) get a stranglehold.
There is likely now to be a THIRD “pilot” in Somerset. The FIRST plan was based on a badger population of 4,300. The SECOND estimate was 2,972 . This is to be being lowered further making the effective minimum killing target of 70 per cent supposedly more attainable. However, these manipulations would make it even harder for Ministers to claim the “pilot” had reached the stated aim of effectiveness, safety and humaneness. In addition we have not yet heard what will happen in the other “pilot” area of Gloucestershire, where gerrymandering has also occurred once.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “This amateurish performance destroys any confidence in the competence of Minsters to control bTB by culling by either free shooting or cage trapping and shooting. They will never be able to justify the 25-year assault on a protected species that the Defra Secretary of State has promised. This pantomime is the creation of politics, and Ministers should never have even begun on such a grotesque perversion of science”.
Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a member of the Independent Scientific Group overseeing the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, rightly calls for the whole scheme to be suspended immediately to await the verdict of the independent assessment panel . The Badger Trust says that so imprecise was the original estimate of numbers in both areas that “successful” culls would have wiped out the populations as now estimated. That could have constituted a breach of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Habitats.
A serious omission in this latest debate is of any sense of proportion about the supposed benefit of culling. It would only at best limit the rise in bTB by 16 per cent after nine years. Far greater would be the benefit from cattle-based restrictions which have succeeded in the past in the UK and more recently in Northern Ireland, both without culling schemes. Happily the European Union insisted that the Coalition introduced from this year new testing and movement restrictions which the industry had resisted for 20 years."
 BBC Radio 4, Today. October 9th.
Badger cull has killed fewer than half the number of animals intended
The Guardian website is today (7th October) reporting that the trial cull in Somerset has 'only' killed 700-800 badgers - not half as many as the government wanted to cull.
The result will be an increase, rather than a decrease, in incidences of bovine TB, according to experts, and opponents of the cull are demanding an immediate end to the 'botched' policy.
Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a badger expert at the Zoological Society of London and a key member of the RBCT team, told the Guardian: "If the [Somerset] badger population estimates are correct, then culling 800 badgers would be in the region where I would expect cattle TB incidence to be elevated rather than reduced by culling."
Chris Cheeseman, also a member of the RBCT, said: "If the 750-800 numbers are correct, then I would expect the perturbation effect to be marked. It would be utterly stupid to roll this cull out as a policy. I would expect environment secretary Owen Paterson to try some other means of culling, but that will take time to develop. What a farce." An unofficial Defra source said Paterson had been repeatedly warned of the risk of failure of the cull by officials: "It is hard to feel sorry for him, as this is a spectacular own goal."
You can read the full story by Damian Carrington, the Guardian's environment editor, here:
The Shropshire Star recently reported that farmers in the county are calling for the cull to be extended to Shropshire, despite the fact that there are no results yet, of course, from the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and despite the fact, as the article itself makes clear, that bTB in Shropshire is DECLINING!
Read the full article here if you missed it the first time around.
The next day, the Shropshire Star ran another story, quoting the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, saying that farmers had to pull together if they want to see a cull in their county.
'Mr Paterson said he believes Shropshire, and in particular his north Shropshire constituency, is an “extremely appropriate” place for a cull as he seeks to eradicate Bovine TB from the UK within 25 years.'
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