Badger Trust calls on all Welsh political parties to commit to a humane approach to bovine TB control and stop killing healthy badgers
Badger Trust, the voice for badgers in Wales and England, has today called on all the major parties standing in the Senedd elections to commit to a humane approach to controlling bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. The current Labour-led Welsh Government is using a range of cattle interventions to tackle the disease as part of a number of bespoke bTB reduction plans, but in some instances this includes killing badgers. To date 68 badgers have been killed at an estimated cost of £1.5m and with the majority giving negative bTB test results on post-mortem.
Since 2017 the ‘Test, Vaccinate, Removal’ (TVR) scheme has been deployed on a small number of farms and aims to identify and remove bTB-infected badgers only. However, FOI data obtained by Dyfi Badger Group show that TVR is killing mostly healthy badgers, and at a significant cost. This is unlikely to effectively contribute to the control of the disease, and the results indicate the current policy to be failing on scientific effectiveness, humaneness and public cost grounds. In addition, many of those badgers killed had previously been vaccinated against bTB. Badger Trust has raised serious concerns with the current First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and continues to urgently seek a meeting with him.
Dawn Varley, Acting CEO of Badger Trust, said:
‘The forthcoming election brings an opportunity to start afresh for the incoming administration – whatever its colour. With the Covid crisis and economic recovery a continuing priority, we call on the future Welsh Government to stop wasting public money on killing healthy or vaccinated badgers in a failed attempt to control what fundamentally is a cattle disease, spread by cattle-to-cattle transmission.’
She continued: ‘We agree with farmers that bTB is a terrible disease, with significant impact on their livelihood and their cattle. But badgers are not to blame and the TVR scheme has to end. We estimate that it has cost the Welsh taxpayer £1.5m to date to kill 68 badgers, the majority of which were found to be bTB free at post-mortem. It’s an appalling waste of money at a time when the economic situation is dire, and a tragic and unnecessary loss of life for badgers when Wales has already seen 60% of its native wildlife disappear over the last 25 years.’
‘We have an opportunity to change the approach here and we ask all parties to take it. What’s needed is a focus on tougher cattle measures to reduce cattle-to-cattle transmission – the most significant cause of cattle bTB infection – and a switch to badger vaccination.’
For further information:
The Welsh Labour Manifesto commitment on bTB states that ‘We will not allow the culling of badgers to control the spread of TB in cattle’. This is stated as part of their plan to ‘develop a national model for regulation of animal welfare’. It also includes a commitment to ban snares, a wildlife control method that often captures badgers as the unintended victim, and can result in a long and painful death. (Manifesto references from page 37, Section 11).
The Plaid Cymru manifesto does not mention badgers or bTB.
The Conservative manifesto does not mention badgers or bTB.
For full details of the letter sent to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, raising serious concerns on TVR please see our August 2020 release here. The First Minister did not reply, but passed the letter to the Chief Vet, Christine Glossop, to reply. Badger Trust chased for a reply from Mr Drakeford earlier this month and has yet to receive a response to a request for a meeting.
Badger Trust exists to promote and enhance the welfare, conservation and protection of badgers, their setts, and their habitats. It is the leading voice for badgers in Wales and England, with a network of over 50 local voluntary badger groups and supported by thousands of supporters and followers. It started as The National Federation of Badger Groups in January 1986 and later evolved into the Badger Trust in 2005. Despite significant progress on the legal protection of this iconic species, some 35 years on from its starting point badgers across the UK are under threat more than ever before.
Badger Trust provides expert advice on all badger issues and works closely with the government, police, and other conservation organisations. It uses all lawful means to campaign for the improved protection of badgers and is a member of Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), Wildlife and Countryside Link and is represented on the UK Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. More at https://www.badgertrust.org.uk/