The Badger Cull: An open letter to farmers

Credit Steven Cheshire

The UK Government is due to make an announcement of new areas for badger culling this September. We are really concerned about the possibility of Warwickshire being included.

As many of you will know, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has a longstanding history of working in partnership and supporting farmers and this will always be the case moving forward. 

70% of Warwickshire is agricultural land. Therefore, farmers play a crucial role in nature’s recovery as well as their obvious contribution to growing the nation’s food and supporting our economy. We work closely with lots of farmers across Warwickshire through our Arden Farm Wildlife Network, Living Landscapes schemes and agricultural advice. Together, we passionately believe we can work in partnership to make space for nature whilst maintaining productive farms.

As part of the national network of Wildlife Trusts we have also been actively opposed to the badger cull since 2004. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to demonstrate that culling badgers decreases the incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Long-term trials by the UK Government showed that culling could actually make the situation worse by encouraging the remaining badgers to move around.

In recognition of these facts, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust conducted its own badger vaccinations between 2012 and 2015. At that point we ceased our vaccination programme due the global shortage of badger BCG vaccine. This permitted other large area vaccination schemes utilising the available alternative vaccine to continue. Three other Wildlife Trusts, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Berks, Bucks & Oxfordshire, pioneered the use of this alternative vaccine and their vaccination programmes continue to have a big impact.

We are very mindful that bTB in cattle can have a devastating emotional and financial impact on the lives of farmers and we want to find solutions that work for everyone. We recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bTB. So, we urge the UK Government to do the right thing.

Killing badgers will not solve the problem of this terrible disease. Badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle: the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. The Government's badger cull is not supported by science. We believe it should be helping farmers by investing properly in speeding up the development of an effective cattle vaccine, supporting farmers to reduce the risk of cattle-to-cattle transmission by increasing bio-security on farms and continuing to support badger vaccination.

We are extremely disappointed to hear that the Government may be in the process of making a U-turn on its bTB commitments earlier this year.  The leaked information suggests that not only are badgers in Warwickshire now at risk from culling, but also badgers in other parts of the country where DEFRA-funded badger vaccination programmes have been running for years. It makes no sense to cull vaccinated badgers.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust exists as a charity to bring people closer to nature and create a land rich in wildlife. We give nature a voice and will be standing up for badgers, urging the Government to reconsider any plans to extend the badger cull to Warwickshire.

If you would like to talk to me about this subject then I welcome that discussion and can be reached on ian.jelley@wkwt.org.uk

Yours faithfully,

Ian Jelley

Director of Living Landscapes

 

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Credit Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION