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Lord Krebs on the badger cull

My Lords, as has been said, bovine TB is a serious problem, and it deserves serious science to underpin policy. I do not want to take up too much time, but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me as an individual who has been involved in this over the past 15 years and, as has been said, instigated the randomised badger
culling trial and took part in the review of the evidence with Sir Bob Watson last year. It is worth briefly repeating the facts: the long-term, large-scale culling of badgers is estimated to reduce the incidence of TB in cattle by 16% after nine years. In other words, 84% of the problem is still there. To reflect on what that means, this is not a reduction in absolute terms but actually a 16% reduction from the trend increase. So after nine years there is still more TB around than there was at the beginning; it is just that there is 16% less than there would have been without a cull. The nu

mber is not the 30% that the NFU quoted; that is misleading-a dishonest filleting of the data. The other thing that the experts conclude is that culling makes the situation worse at the beginning so it will take a long time to emerge into this Nirvana of a 16% reduction, and 84% of the problem is still there.

That is just the background. I turn to questions that I hope the Minister will answer. Last Friday we were told by the Minister of State for Food and Farming that between 500 and 800 badgers would be culled in each of the two areas. The number, thanks to rapid badger reproduction over the weekend, is now 5,530 over the two areas-a four fold increase. I am impressed. What this underlines is that if the policy is to cull at least 70% of the badgers, we have to know what the starting number is. This variation from just over 1,000 to more than 5,000 in the space of a few days underlines how difficult it is for us to have confidence that the Government will be able to instruct the farmers to cull 70% if they do not know the starting numbers. So my first question to the Minister is: how will he assure us that these numbers are accurate?

If we ask why the NFU has backed out, it is because it was due to pay those who were going to shoot the badgers on a per-badger basis. The NFU calculated it on the basis of shooting 1,300 badgers. Suddenly it is told, “It’s 5,500 badgers”. The farmers thought it was worth doing-but not that much. They have done their own cost-benefit calculation and say that it is not worth the candle. So my second question to the Minister is: in next year’s cull, who is going to pay? Are the farmers going to stump up on a per-badger basis to shoot 5,500 badgers or are we, the taxpayer, going to pay?

Finally and briefly, we have a pause and time to rethink. I urge the Minister to gather together scientific experts and rethink the Government’s strategy altogether, starting from square one.

Announcement on Badger Cull Imminent

Badger cull opponents could be jumping for joy later today as a major announcement is imminent expected to put the badger cull on hold

Badger cull opponents could be jumping for joy later today as a major announcement is said to be imminent

Environment secretary expected to announce delay amid concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the scheme

The environment secretary Owen Paterson is to announce that the government is delaying its plan to cull thousands of badgers, probably until next year at the earliest, amid growing concern about the cost and effectiveness of the controversial scheme.

The announcement forced Paterson to return from an official trip abroad and is another setback for the government. It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for No 10 culminating in the resignation last week of the chief whip for swearing at police – prompting one Conservative party grandee to lambast David Cameron’s operation as a “dog of a government”.

However the decision will be welcomed by leading scientists who have expressed severe doubts about whether the cull will work, and animal rights and welfare activists who have continued protesting throughout the long process. The depth of public feeling was also highlighted by a 150,000 e-petition started by the musician Brian May.. Read More..

Anger over badger cull mounts

With mounting public opposition to the badger cull people are finding new ways to advertise their displeasure at the idea of killing thousands of England’s protected Badgers. Paterson has misjudged the public by attempting to press ahead with an unlawful massacre of badgers/ Today another new Facebook page appeared calling for Owen Paterson to step down from his new position as environment secretary.

Just 3 hours after the page went live it had received 100 “likes” and looks set to go viral in the coming days.

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Badger cull target raised to 80%

More badgers than expected must be killed for a cull to be deemed successful in south-west England, Farmers Weekly can reveal. NFU vice president Adam Quinney said the union had been told to ensure 80% of badgers were culled in two areas of west Somerset and west Gloucestershire. A final decision is expected shortly on when to proceed with the badger cull, which is aimed at combating bovine tuberculosis in cattle. Under the previous terms of the cull, farming groups had to commit to killing at least 70% of badgers within the cull zone to minimise the threat of fleeing badgers spreading TB to other areas. The increased target follows official statistics suggesting higher than expected badger populations in both of the cull zones. Farmers Weekly asked DEFRA and Natural England to confirm the new target and any reasons for raising the bar. Read More..

Badger cull under threat

Brian May - Badger Cull

A last-minute legal challenge has dealt a fresh blow to the government’s increasingly troubled cull of badgers in England, the Observer has learned.
The Badger Trust’s lawyers have served a 16-page legal letter on Natural England, the government agency licensing the culling, which could halt the cull. “The costs of the cull are soaring out of control, with little benefit in sight for farmers and major risks posed for members of the public in the cull areas,” said Gwendolen Morgan, the trust’s solicitor at Bindmans LLP. “It is time for the government to reconsider.”
The delayed cull now appears at serious risk of being abandoned, for this year at least. On Thursday it was revealed that the number of badgers in the cull areas was up to twice initial estimates [], presenting a much greater challenge to farmers already said to be deeply concerned by rising costs and complications.Read More..

Badger Cull Bill £4 million

The coalition Government and farmers’ leaders insist there will be no U-turn on the planned pilot schemes in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Figures released yesterday by Defra show the benefits to farmers are £3.68 million, while the costs are £4.56 million – not including the bill for policing, estimated at £4 million over four years.
Agriculture Minister David Heath, the Somerton & Frome MP, said yesterday that 55 Government officials have been assigned to visit badger cull areas to take DNA samples and conduct sett surveys. The total cost of the effectiveness monitoring, for which the bulk of the surveys work was conducted, is estimated at £850,000, he said.
The cost of the badger cull will far exceed the benefits to farmers, it emerged yesterday – but it will still go ahead. Read More..

Badger cull is dead in the water

Badger Swimming

Badger defies DEFRA hard boundaries, they can cross roads too!

Here’s a modest prediction. I am prepared to be proved wrong, but the tealeaves are definitely pointing my way for now. The proposed cull of badgers to curb the spread of bovine tuberculosis will not go ahead and the government is preparing for a colossal u-turn. On 19 July last year, the then environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, announced that a series of trial culls would go ahead. This was, famously, seen as a ‘great day to bury bad news about badgers’ as it coincided with the grilling of Rupert Murdoch by MPs after the phone hacking scandal.Read More..

Crackdown on cattle movements

Cattle movements contribute substantially to the spread of Bovine TB

Ministers have announced a tightening of rules to prevent tuberculosis spreading between cattle, as the controversial badger cull aimed at curbing bovine TB struggles to get started.
The strengthened rules, which will come into force from 1 January 2013, include changes to the testing regime and cattle movement restrictions.
“We need to stop the spread of bovine TB, which led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle in 2011 alone,” said Liberal Democrat agriculture minister David Heath. “These strengthened measures, alongside our badger control policy and the ongoing development of vaccines, are about reducing risks from all possible sources of TB infection, to help control the disease and eventually eradicate it.” Read More..




Mixed messages from DEFRA

Are badgers getting a reprieve or not?
The Department for the Environment had an announcement to make this lunchtime. But now I’m told there’s nothing to say.
I was due to interview the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson this morning. That got cancelled.
Then it was re-instated for 12:45. But that has now been cancelled too.Read More..