Badger Trust welcomes challenge to the Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer from vets with bTB expertise
The Badger Trust has welcomed a challenge to the Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, on the presentation of facts relating to the perceived role of badgers in the transmission of bovine TB (bTB) to cattle, the basis of fact on which decisions are being made, and the indicated future direction of the Government’s strategy for controlling the spread of bTB.
A group of seven vets with extensive knowledge and experience in the field have written to the CVO following a series of concerning statements and factual presentations, asking for a response on several related points. The group includes Dr Iain McGill, a former government scientist who blew the whistle on the BSE cover-up in the 1990s, as well as Professor Ranald Munro, Chairman of Independent Expert Panel on the Pilot Badger Culls, and vets from leading animal welfare groups and/or with specialisms in the subject.
The letter concluded:
‘We are sure you would agree that the badger cull is an unprecedented assault on a protected wild mammal species that should not be undertaken lightly, and certainly not without due regard for the very latest scientific data, in addition to animal welfare and ethical concerns... We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you as a matter of urgency, in order to give you an opportunity to clarify the apparent inconsistencies in your statements and advice to government.’
Jo Bates-Keegan, Chair of Badger Trust, commented: ‘We welcome this challenge from experts within the veterinary field, as it supports our ongoing concerns. In particular on the ‘risk pathways’ as repeatedly stated by the Government, a key rationale stated as a basis for culling badgers. These in our view are entirely subjective and non-scientific, tick-box exercises in determining the potential cause of a herd breakdown.’
‘Essentially if no clear cause for bTB in the relevant cattle herd is found, it is put down to 'badgers' if badgers are present at a farm. This approach is at odds with the recently released ‘Badgers Found Dead Study’ which showed very low levels of the disease in badgers. This report, despite being completed two years ago at the cost of almost half a million GBP, was quietly released on a slow news day. The Government are all over the place, not just on their continued rationale for the cull, but the conflicting statements, facts and continued unashamed roll-out of it.’
In September 2020, DEFRA announced the continuation and expansion of the badger cull across England. 11 new cull zones were confirmed, in addition to the existing 43 areas covered by a four-year licence. Over 62,000 badgers are scheduled for death in 2020 alone, meaning between 2013 and 2020 the total number of badgers killed as a result of the cull could reach over 164,000.
Whilst Badger Trust believes culling has now finished for 2020 in the areas licensed for four years, the supplementary areas are believed to be continuing until January. Actual figures for badgers killed during the 2020 cull will not be released until early 2021. By the end of 2020 we estimate the cost of the cull policy will reach £70 million, with every taxpayer in the UK having no choice but to fund this budget, even at a time of crisis for the economic outlook for the country, given the ongoing pandemic situation.
Read the full letter to the CVO here: