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BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle.

In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.

The statement was following a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 “How did the Irish badger cull play out?”

The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.

Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease.

This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent ‘success’ of killing badgers in Ireland. In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:

“Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they’ve gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast.”

Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media. Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.

“Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?

“The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they’ve been allowed to get away with it.  The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it’s very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda.”

The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.

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Notes to Editors:

1)      BBC Article referred to  can be found at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-22731629

2)      Full BBC ruling attached or available separately on request – file name ‘BBC Response to Complaint Feb 2013 TB’

3)      Independent on Sunday Article referenced was published on 13th October 2013

The £7m Badger Cull – Shock Figures Reveal Each Dead Badger Cost £4000+

Worse: Over four years, policy will cost 7.5 times MORE than it will save

Culling badgers in England during 2013 cost £7.3million, according to official sources and FOI requests – which works out at £4121 per dead badger.

Wildlife charity Care for the Wild has pieced together the costs of the cull from various sources to come up with the ‘final reckoning’ of the cull, which dramatically failed to kill enough badgers to have any positive impact on bovine TB.

The figures show:

  • Police costs – £2.6m
  • Farmers’ costs – £1.49m
  •  Government costs – £3.2m

Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild’s Policy Advisor, said: “This Government has delivered one of the most disastrous and expensive wildlife culls in history.  It has wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which has no scientific, animal welfare or economic justification, and which was carried out in an outrageously sloppy manner which would be laughable if it hadn’t cost so many badgers’ lives.

“All of this has been done to the sound of scientists almost universally saying that culling simply won’t have any significant impact on the disease, and to the statistics that say there’s been a 10% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered this year, prior to the culls, due to better cattle management alone.

“The way to solve the problem of bovine TB is by radically improving farming practices, ensuring that TB testing actually works, and ensuring that infected cattle aren’t moved from farm to farm. The focus on wildlife is a distraction – the farmers need to sort out the plank in their own eye before trying to deal with the speck of badgers. “

Any future justification for the cull is also devastatingly undermined by the figures. According to government predictions, if the culls were extended over four years, and were successful in attaining their target of reducing bTB in the cull zones by 16%, this would bring a financial benefit of £2.5m to the taxpayer.

However, the costs of culling over that period would be around £19m – more than seven times the benefit.

Dominic Dyer said: “We keep hearing about bovine TB being a burden on the taxpayer, but the figures show that the real burden is the badger cull. Taxpayers will not benefit from badgers being killed, the badgers certainly won’t benefit – and neither will the farmers, because culling was always going to be a costly failure. It’s time the government realised that.”

Care for the Wild is a wildlife charity based in Horsham, Sussex. To find out more, see www.careforthewild.com/badger

‘Secret’ Report on Badger Cull Revealed by FOI

Fears that Independent Panel review of cull will be nothing but ‘window dressing’

A ‘secret’ report on the badger cull trials has been produced by Defra and Natural England, according to an FOI request – prior to the official Independent Panel Review which was meant to investigate the policy.

Care for the Wild has become aware of this report via a Freedom of Information Request, and has informed the Shadow Environment Minister, Huw Irranca Davies MP, who is now seeking immediate disclosure from Owen Paterson and a debate on its contents by MPs in Parliament after the Christmas recess.

Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild’s Policy Advisor, said: “Owen Paterson has been as difficult to find as Lord Lucan since the end of the disastrous badger cull pilots.

“He has refused to discuss the outcome of the pilot culls with MPs, the media or the wider public. Instead we learn that he has commissioned an emergency review of the disastrous cull policy, which he is now declining to share with MPs or debate in Parliament.

“The fact this report has been produced in advance of the so-called Independent Panel undertaking its review of the pilot cull trials is very worrying, as it’s a clear sign that the Panel is little more than window dressing. It implies that the political decision to roll out the cull has already been taken by Owen Paterson and the National Farmers Union without any scientific, animal welfare or economic justification.

“Owen Paterson needs to stop determining government policy in backrooms with the NFU, and start behaving as if he works for a democracy. He should immediately disclose the full contents of the DEFRA badger cull pilot review and address its key findings in his first public speech of 2014 at the Oxford Farming Conference on 6 January.

“The badger cull should then return to Parliament for a full debate and vote, and the Prime Minister should ensure Owen Paterson attends this debate and is held accountable for this disastrous policy, in the face of increasing anger from MPs across all parties.”

Care for the Wild is a charity based in Sussex dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the UK and abroad. For more information or if you would like to support our work, see www.careforthewild.com.

Whisper It Quietly, Defra: TB Cattle Slaughter Rates Down by Nearly 10% on 2012

As MPs debated the disastrous Badger Cull Pilots in Westminster yesterday, without the presence of Owen Paterson, DEFRA released its latest statistics on bovine TB in UK cattle herds.

From the start of this year, under pressure from the European Commission, the Government has forced farmers to tighten down on biosecurity controls, cattle movements  and TB testing. As a result, we have seen a steady decline in the rates of TB in cattle compared to the same period in 2012.

Comparing the latest DEFRA figures from September 2012 to September 2013,  there has been an overall drop of 5.9% in new TB cases and a 9.5% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered for TB.

Commenting on the latest figures, Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild, said:

“This is great news for farmers but there has been complete silence from Owen Paterson and the National Farmers Union on these reductions in TB, as they do no not want to further undermine the justification for this disastrous badger cull.

“Owen Paterson has wasted millions of pounds of tax payers’ money on a badger cull which has failed on scientific and humaneness grounds and could well have increased the risk of TB spread in the cull zones.

“In the meantime,  we have seen that by forcing farmers to clamp down on biosecurity and cattle movement controls, and improve the standard of TB testing, we can deliver a significant reduction in TB levels in livestock without the senseless slaughter of badgers.

“It’s time that Owen Paterson came out of hiding and showed the courage to admit the badger cull has been a complete failure.

The game is up. Politicians and the public can now see that the only long term solution to reducing TB in cattle is a combination of tighter biosecurity, cattle movement controls, TB testing and vaccination of both badgers and cattle.”

Care for the Wild is a wildlife charity based in Horsham. For more information, see www.careforthewild.com/badger.

 Badger cull called off – for now

Wildlife groups are celebrating following the announcement that the Gloucestershire badger cull is being abandoned early after it failed to meet any of its targets.

Natural England, which is managing the cull, is pulling the plug on shooting as of tomorrow (Saturday) lunchtime. A revised target of killing 58% of badgers in the zone had been set following the initial cull period, but this has also been missed by the gunmen.

Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild, said that a mass protest against the cull taking place in Bristol tomorrow could now turn into a celebration.

“We must take a moment to celebrate the utter failure of a badly planned, poorly executed, inhumane cull. There would be some joy in saying ‘we told you so’ to the government, but hundreds of badgers have already been killed for absolutely no discernible reason.

“The sad thing though is that this government will now try and justify rolling out the cull to other parts of the country next year. They will say that lessons have been learned, they will say that there is no other way to beat TB.

“But if they had cared to pay attention, they’d know that we’d already learned lessons about culling – that it doesn’t work. And we know that there is another way – a revised and improved cattle management system, in conjunction with volunteer-led badger vaccination.”

The failures of the trial culls have included:

  • the complete failure to meet its targets after six weeks, then the decision to extend, which was taken against scientific advice.
  • the cost of each badger killed was more than £2500
  • humaneness guidelines were broken by trapping and shooting badgers in sub-zero conditions
  • the risk of increasing TB in the area through perturbation – badgers escaping and spreading disease – was also significantly increased when the cull was extended.

“For once can we have a government that holds its hands up and says – okay, that was a trial, it failed, we’ll do it another way. But politics and personal ambition mean that we’ll no doubt be fighting this battle again very soon,” said Dominic Dyer.

A badger cull protest is taking place tomorrow (Saturday 30th) in Bristol, starting at noon. Speakers including Bill Oddie, Simon King and Dominic Dyer.

Claims that ‘high number of badgers are sick’ undermined by Welsh research

Out of nearly 1200 badgers caught in Wales for vaccination, none showed any signs of illness

Consistent claims by the UK government that badgers are very sick with TB and at a high risk of spreading disease to other badgers and cattle have been shot to pieces by statistics from the Welsh Government Badger Vaccination Project.

Environment Minister Owen Paterson has justified the current badger cull many times by claiming or insinuating that most of the animals being killed are disease-ridden: and thus culling them is actually a blessing for the badgers themselves.

In an interview with the Independent Newspaper on the 13th October he stated that many badgers are “sick, emaciated animals spewing out disease”. He went even further in Parliament on 10th October when stating in a Parliamentary Question to Angela Smith MP that “some of the animals we have shot have been desperately sick in the final stages of the disease.”

But evidence suggests that the badgers are nowhere near as sick as is being made out. In a response to a Parliamentary Question from Caroline Lucas MP on 18th November we learned that Owen Paterson has no evidence to back up his claims that shot badgers have TB, and was basing his statements on unsubstantiated reports from NFU contractors and farmers involved in the cull – none of which are known to have any veterinary qualifications.

In addition, a report into the Welsh Government’s Badger Vaccination Project has revealed that out of 1193 badgers caught to be vaccinated last year, NONE were visibly sick.

Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild, said that very sick badgers which could spread the disease – often referred to as ‘super excreters’ – could have visibly poor skin condition, weight loss and ulceration.

“Owen Paterson has misled MP’s, his constituents and the wider public by stating that nearly 40% of badgers suffer from late stage TB and are at a high risk of spreading the disease to other badgers and cattle,” he said. “But he has no evidence to back up these claims and is simply creating a climate of fear to justify the badger cull policy in the face of rapidly growing opposition.

“The Randomised Badger Cull found that of 9919 badger killed, only 166 (1.67%) were suffering from late stage TB and therefore could be considered ‘super excreters’, and this is backed up by the Welsh Government Badger Vaccination Project, which found no badgers falling into this category despite being undertaken in a TB hot spot area.”

While identifying diseased animals by sight is far from ideal, it is the only method left as the government refused to test any of the culled badgers for TB. By using ‘visual evidence’ as a way to justify the policy, Mr Paterson has scored another own goal. Other claims he has made that have been shown to be untrue or misleading include:

  • Culling has been successful in the Republic of Ireland. But this has been undermined by the fact that Northern Ireland has had greater success in lowering the rate of TB – without culling a single badger.
  • The sharp drop in the alleged number of badgers in the cull zones over the last few months was due to natural causes (leading to the famous ‘the badgers moved the goalposts’ quote). But the likelihood of this being true was dismissed by experts, who said that illegal killing was a more likely explanation, and contradicted by Natural England’s own study sites.
  • The level of transmission of TB from badgers to cattle is 50%. This figure is disputed by many leading scientific experts, as it is based on a desk based mathematical model, not peer reviewed field based scientific research.

Dominic Dyer added:  “When we focus on the scientific facts and not the fiction from Owen Paterson, we find that a vast majority of the badgers being killed at huge expense in Somerset and Gloucestershire are likely to be perfectly healthy and will pose no risk to cattle at all.

“It is extremely worrying that a senior minister of the British government is being allowed to make unsubstantiated statements repeatedly in order to persuade the public that this policy is necessary. This may not be the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last – but surely the government must now call it a day on the badger cull and focus on cattle management to beat this disease.”

1)      Examples of Owen Paterson’s quotes:

The Secretary of State told MPs yesterday: “I was in Somerset last week talking to those conducting the cull, and they were doing so with great professionalism, skill and restraint, in the face of some opposition, and they were delighted with the results, were convinced there had been a significant reduction in the number of diseased badgers and were looking with great confidence to that part of Somerset being rid of the disease.” This Is Cornwall, November 22nd

“These lovely black and white creatures you see on the telly and you put in your newspaper. They don’t relate to these miserable, emaciated sick animals spewing out disease”

“They [animal welfare groups] are condemning these animals to a long, unpleasant death. I find it incomprehensible that these badger groups don’t see that this is a horrendous disease for the badgers themselves.” Independent on Sunday, 13th October

“The badgers moved the goalposts. We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.” BBC, 9th October

Mr Paterson said: “The Irish results are spectacular. I spoke about this to (Irish Agriculture Minister) Simon Coveney recently and he said TB is now at the lowest level since records began.

“How are they doing it? Using the skin test, strict movement controls and bearing down on wildlife. There is nothing magic about this. It is what I have been saying all along.It is clear evidence and shows we will be using a rational policy when the two pilots will go ahead this summer.”  Farmers Guardian 22nd March

2)      Bovine TB Eradication Programme IAA Badger Vaccination Project Year 1 Report: Para 64. ‘It can be reported that no badgers were found to be seriously injured and on no occasion was it necessary to call for veterinary assistance.’ Read the Welsh Report here.

3)      In response to a PQ from Caroline Lucas MP on 18 November,  Farm Minister George Eustice confirmed that Owen Paterson had no evidence to back up statements regarding the number of sick badgers in the cull, and was simply repeating comments made to him by NFU contractors and farmers involved with the pilot culls

UK Government Urged: Foreign Aid Cash Must Be Used to Lead the Charge Against Elephant Poaching

MPs and charities are calling on the UK government to divert Foreign Aid money into helping fight wildlife crime like elephant poaching.

An innovative Early Day Motion (EDM) has been tabled by Zac Goldsmith MP, asking the government to make a ‘substantial and strategically important contribution’ towards the protection of elephants across Africa.   Wildlife charity Care for the Wild International, which has run anti-poaching projects in Kenya for many years, helped draft the EDM, and is urging MPs and the government to debate the issue in Parliament.

Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild, said:   “The world is gradually waking up to the dire situation in Africa, but now we need the British government to pick this up and push Europe forward.

“A hundred years ago over 12 million elephants roamed Africa. Today only 350,000 remain and at the current rate of loss to poachers most of these could be gone in the next few years.  The UK has a key role to play in leading international action to stop elephant poaching in Africa, but we must act now.”

Zac Goldsmith (Cons), MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, said: “We are seeing an unimaginable tragedy unfold in Africa. Elephants are being killed at a rate that will render them extinct in the wild in only a few years, and all for the sake of a few trinkets.  But it’s not just a conservation issue; ivory funds terrorist groups, including the notorious Al Shabab, and it is in our interest to turn the tap off fast. The Foreign office is showing leadership, but it’s time now to ramp things up considerably.”

In May this year, Care for the Wild revealed that the cost of saving the elephants would be just 7p per person among the population of the G8 nations, which has a combined foreign aid budget of around $90 billion a year. Since then, the G8 has committed to take action on the issue, Prince Charles and Prince William have shown their support, the US has set up a Wildlife Crime Taskforce, and has also destroyed its own stockpile of ivory.

Philip Mansbridge added:  “We spend over 12 billion a year in the UK on international aid and it’s now time we used some of these funds to help African nations protect their elephants from ivory poachers

“People may think that foreign aid money should only be used to help people – but this is exactly what this money will do. Stopping ivory poaching is not only about protecting the future of elephants but also the people of Africa. The illegal ivory trade is hugely damaging to the economies of countries such as Kenya which rely on wildlife tourism, and it also feeds instability, terrorism and conflicts across the continent.

“I call on all MPs to support this EDM and look forward to the Foreign Secretary joining a debate in Parliament on this issue, ahead of the high level International Wildlife Crime Summit in London in February.”

Care for the Wild International is a charity based in Horsham which aims to Rescue, Protect and Defend wildlife around the world.

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The EDM is number 773 and can be found here.

TAKE ACTION

Contact your MP to ask them to add their name to this important EDM. It’s easy to do, using Writetothem.com.

Simply find your MP then write them an email asking them to sign the EDM, We believe that Foreign Aid money can be used to help save the elephants, as the impact of ivory poaching is affecting humans as well as animals. It is vital that the British Government continues to focus on this issue, and can lead the way by diverting foreign aid cash into stopping poachers.

Support Us

You can help support Care for the Wild’s work by donating to our Last Chance for Elephants Campaign.

If you know a child who has wobbly teeth, you can help them to help the elephants through our wonderful Tooth Fairy campaign.

Thank you!