Badgers Muchalls 30-6-18 by Dod Morrison

GET INVOLVED: WRITE TO YOUR MP


Writing to your MP is a quick, easy way to campaign for the protection of badgers. And with an expansion of the badger cull announced in September 2020, it’s more important than ever to make your views known to your local representative. 

Emails and letters – especially those that are personal, original and persuasive – have the power to influence your MP. The more letters they receive from constituents on a particular issue, the more likely they are to pay attention and act on your concerns. 
 
Your local MP can take badger and wildlife issues to the Environment Minister.


TIPS FOR WRITING TO YOUR MP

Make it personal

  • To make the most impact on your MP, take time to pen your own unique letter.  

  • Researching and writing a message of your own shows you’re passionate about the issue. 

  • A handwritten letter instead of an email helps you stand out even more. 

  • A pre-written template may take you seconds to send, but your own letter is always stronger. 

  • Always include your name and address so your MP knows you live in their constituency. 

Keep it brief 

  • MPs are busy and may not properly read long messages. Grab their attention! 

  • We recommend around 150 carefully chosen words for an email or one page of A4 (around 400 words) for a letter. 

  • If you have more to say, you can always write again!

Include key facts  

Think local 

  • Zone in on the local situation and what badgers mean to you. 

  • Get your MP interested in what’s happening with the badger cull in your community and how you feel about it. 

  • While the badger cull and other badger issues are happening across the country, it’s your MP's job to take an interest in local matters.  

 

Be persistent 

  • If you’ve not heard back in a few weeks, follow up. 

  • If you hear back but aren’t satisfied with the answer, don’t give up – keep the pressure on with another message. 

  • Challenge responses; counter quoted 'science' and the party line with our badger facts. 

  • Share the reply with us and on social media too, tagging in the MP. You'll be alerting other people in your local area to the situation. 
     

Remain polite, even if you feel frustrated by the answers you receive. MPs will be more receptive to courteous communication.  

HOW TO FIND AND CONTACT YOUR MP

Find your MP and their contact details here on the government website

or

You can use WriteToThem  

  • enter your postcode to find your MP

  • write your message

  • send it all through the website

WRITING TO YOUR MP ABOUT THE BADGER CULL EXPANSION

Key issues 

These statements cover our key issues with the government’s expansion of the badger cull policy. Choose from them to inform your MP, support the argument in your letter, or to respond to your MP if you are dissatisfied with their response. 

The vast majority of bTB infections are cow to cow 

There is little evidence that badgers can easily pass back bovine TB (bTB) to cows. The level of badger culling is vastly disproportionate to any risk posed. The vast majority of badgers killed as a result of the cull policy are bTB free and their removal will have no impact on lowering bTB in cattle. 
Study: Donnelly, CA & Nouvellet, P. PLoS Currents Outbreaks (2013)
.

 

102,349 badgers have been killed under cull licences 2013-2019 and just over 900 were subject to a post mortem and test for bovine TB. Of these only around 5% were found to have bTB to a degree where they posed a risk of infecting other badgers or possibly cattle.

 

The government is not taking biosecurity seriously enough. The level of uptake of biosecurity measures on farms to prevent the spread of bTB remains low. The government needs to make biosecurity a condition of cull licensing and to link its bTB cattle compensation scheme to improved biosecurity measures on farms.

 

Bovine TB testing for cattle is not effective, with the bTB skin test only around 60% accurate. This leaves bTB infected cattle undetected in herds that continue to spread bTB.

The public cost of the badger cull policy is likely to exceed £70 million by the end of 2020

The Badger Trust estimates the cull policy has cost over £60 million of public funds, taking account of administrative, training, equipment, monitoring, policing and legal defence costs (2013-2019).

When this badger cull policy was implemented in 2013 the Government claimed it would be a farmer-led policy with little cost burden on the public purse. This is not so. The badger cull is much more costly to the taxpayer than the farming industry. 

Study: Eradicating TB from cattle and badgers – a review of evidence 

Vaccination is more cost-effective than killing badgers. According to a DWT report volunteer-led badger vaccination can be as cheap as £82 per badger compared to £1,000 to shoot a badger.  

Report:  Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) Derbyshire 2019 Review

There is a human cost to the badger cull, with rural communities split over the issues.

 

The badger cull expansion is a betrayal of public trust

In March 2020, the government promised to phase out badger culling in favour of badger vaccination. In September 2020, it made a U-turn on this promise and expanded the badger cull. 

Natural England issued 11 new cull licences in five new counties, including areas with taxpayer-funded vaccination programmes. It is now clear that the government is expanding badger killing across England for years to come.

The government is shelving large parts of the Sir Charles Godfray bovine TB Review in favour of this huge expansion of badger shooting. The review, while not going far enough, acknowledged that cattle-based measures need to be the focus, and badger culling should begin to be phased out in favour of vaccination.

 

By the end of 2020 over 164,000 badgers could be killed since the start of the cull policy in 2013

Between 2013 and 2019, cull contractors killed over 102,000 badgers. In 2020, cull licences issued by Natural England could see over 62,000 badgers shot across all 54 cull zones. 

This expansion of the badger cull policy puts badgers at risk of local extinction. The Government has no accurate data on badger populations in England and is not monitoring the impact of large scale badger culling on the badger population levels as required under the Bern Convention.

The cull is inhumane. The vast majority of badgers are killed without any monitoring for humaneness at all.

The government could kill every badger in England, yet bovine TB will remain in cattle due to deficiencies in bTB testing, and poor cattle movement and biosecurity controls.

 

The cull is ineffective

There is no reliable peer-reviewed science to prove badger culling is working. The government's argument that badger culling is working is based on the peer-reviewed study published in Nature in October 2019 by Downs et al. Yet the report itself states that “these data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle”.

Study: Downs SH et al (2019) Assessing effects from four years of industry-led badger culling in England on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, 2013-2017. Scientific Reports 2019, 9, 14666.

Any attempt to prove that badger culling alone is responsible for lowering TB incidents in cattle is misleading. Improved bTB testing, cattle movement controls and biosecurity measures could also be key factors in lowering the spread of bTB in and around the cull zones.

Satellite tracking collar monitoring of badger movements in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland found that they largely avoid cattle in pasture areas or farmyards, which significantly reduces disease transmission routes.

Badger vaccination is a viable alternative
Badger vaccination is a viable non-lethal intervention method for lowering bovine TB in badgers. 

Studies in Northern Ireland suggest that eradication of bovine TB in the badger population there could be achieved with only a 30% vaccination rate. Defra funded research has proven using a BCG vaccine on a bTB free badger can reduce the risk of the animal catching the disease by around 70%. This benefit is also passed down to newborn cubs. The government has also stated that it believes badger vaccination in the Republic of Ireland is having a positive impact on lowering bTB incidents in cattle.
Study: 11 Aznar, I et al (2018) Quantification of Mycobacterium bovis transmission in a badger vaccine field trial Preventive Veterinary Medicine 149: 29-37

The expansion of badger culling threatens to undermine existing and new badger vaccination projects in England. Culling vaccinated badgers will inevitably occur and the number of badgers available to vaccinate in subsequent years may make the scheme impossible.

The government needs to do more to provide public funding for training, equipment and communicating the scientific value of badger vaccination to farmers and landowners. A recent study has identified barriers to wider implementation or expansion of vaccination schemes.

These include: 

  • limited funding available (and only partial funding from the government) 

  • availability of volunteer workforce 

  • low participation from landowners

Study: Benton et al Badger Vaccination In England: Progress, operational effectiveness and participant motivations

Vaccination is more cost-effective than killing badgers. According to a DWT report volunteer-led badger vaccination can be as cheap as £82 per badger compared to £1,000 to shoot a badger.   
Report: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) Derbyshire 2019 Review

Cattle vaccination needs to be rolled out. The government needs to move forward with its
planned four year trial of bTB cattle vaccines in England and Wales and, if successful, be ready to roll out cattle vaccination across England.

 

HOW ELSE CAN YOU CAMPAIGN TO END THE BADGER CULL?

How you can help stop the badger cull

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