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. With over 75,000 badgers slated to be killed in 2021, 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

Key issues 

These statements cover our key issues with 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 cull is nowhere near over

Despite headlines reporting ‘No more badger cull licences from 2022’ in reality, there are still at least 5 more years left of badgers being killed as part of the government’s bovine tuberculosis (bTB) eradication policy.

 

Yes, intensive cull licences issued in 2022 should be the last ones, but they will run for four years – so intensive badger culling continues to 2025 (and even then the government can decide to extend it).

Another 140,000 badgers are due to be killed in the next 5 years

This estimate is based on the horrific trend of the number of badgers killed significantly increasing in recent years, and new cull areas still being licensed.

 

This means we are only halfway through the senseless slaughter of 280,000 badgers. How can this ever be seen as ‘the end'?

The answer to solving bTB in cattle starts and ends with cattle

Bovine TB is a respiratory disease in cattle. The primary transmission source is cattle. But badgers are still the starting point for blame. This needs to change, fast, and certainly before we lose another 140,000 badgers.

 

The government has been reluctant to use the most effective methods to take the steps needed to stop bTB. The focus needs to be on cattle and cattle-based measures:

  • better cattle testing 

  • controls on cattle movement 

  • effective slurry management 

  • additional biosecurity measures 

  • cattle vaccination 

 

94% of bTB infections are cow to cow 

Science tells us that the badger can only play a very small part in the spread of bovine TB. Cattle continue to account for almost every case of infection cow-to cow – over 94%. The remainder comes from a variety of sources including ‘unknown’. 

 

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 were 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.

 

Better cattle testing is needed

Bovine TB testing for cattle is not effective. Between 20% and 50% of infected animals could be missed each time a herd is tested. This leaves bTB-infected cattle undetected in herds that continue to spread bTB. No matter how many times a herd is tested, there will still be animals with bTB, able to pass the infection on to others and the environment.

Unfortunately, unlike the Covid PCR test which is highly reliable, the bovine TB skin test – which Defra insists that farmers in England use – is highly unreliable. 

 

The government has spent many millions of taxpayers money, and farmers have spent many hundreds of thousands of theirs, on a strategy that can make very little difference because the problem can remain hidden in the herd. Unless the ‘hidden reservoir’ in the English cattle herd is addressed, no other measures will make any meaningful difference to disease rates, or the costs of compensation and slaughter. 

The increasing free shooting of badgers risks a horrific death for many

Of 38,642 badgers killed under intensive licences in 2020, 77% were ‘free shot’. This means using a high-power rifle at night and often at a distance – with a significant risk of injury leading to a prolonged and painful death, rather than an immediately fatal shot.

 

The British Veterinary Association has said that only cage trapped badgers should be shot as a culling method, as free shooting cannot be sure to be effective or humane.

 

Despite this, free shooting continues.

By the end of 2021 over 200,000 badgers could be killed since the start of the cull policy in 2013

Between 2013 and 2020, cull contractors killed over 143,000 badgers. In 2021, cull licences issued by Natural England could see over 75,000 badgers shot across 61 cull zones from Cornwall to Cumbria, covering almost 25% of England's entire land area. 

This 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

Any attempt to prove that badger culling alone is responsible for lowering bTB 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.

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.

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.

Cattle vaccination is the fastest and most effective solution to the bTB problem

We’re not going to eradicate bovine TB by killing cattle or badgers – a legally protected native wildlife species –whatever Defra Ministers claim.

 

The most effective and fastest solution to the bTB problem is a cattle vaccine.  Despite culling 143,000 badgers so far, costing many millions of taxpayer’s money, the government is only now field-testing a cattle vaccine. The investment in cattle vaccines has been pitifully low, only a tiny fraction of the total cost of the strategy so far.  

 

We eradicated smallpox through vaccination; polio is virtually eradicated (also through vaccination); rinderpest was declared eradicated (through vigilance and vaccination) in 2011.

Badger vaccination is a viable alternative to killing badgers

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 extent 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 the 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 little as £82 per badger compared to £1,000 to shoot a badger.   
Report: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) Derbyshire 2019 Review

The public cost of the badger cull policy is likely to exceed £70 million by the end of 2021

The Badger Trust estimates the cull policy has cost over £60 million of public funds, taking into account 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 

 

How else can you campaign to end the badger cull?