• Badger Trust Staff Team

Badger Cull Betrayal


Michael Gove accused of betrayal over badger cull review

Having promised to review the government’s controversial badger cull policy on being appointed as Secretary of State for the Environment last year, the government has finally announced a review [1] of it’s TB eradication strategy that specifically excludes any examination of badger culling.


“This is political mendacity at its very worst,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin. “Not only has Michael Gove gone back on his word on badger culling but the scope of the review [2] states that it will not look at the rationale for any past interventions and will be ‘prospective’ as opposed to ‘retrospective’. It is therefore hard to see how this can even be described as a ‘review’ as that would necessarily entail an examination of past performance.”


“Michael Gove has simply given in to pressure from the farming lobby who have stated publicly that a review of culling would put them in an extremely difficult position [3],” continues Peter Martin. “The reason for this is that there is no conclusive evidence of how - or even if - badgers infect cattle with TB to any meaningful extent. Add to this the fact that there is no evidence that five years of culling has had any effect on levels of TB in cattle and you can see why they are scared of a review.”


“We put this to Michael Gove at a meeting in his office before Christmas when he asked why we thought that culling was taking place,” continues Peter Martin. “We told him it was mostly because the farming lobby is using badgers to deflect attention away from their own serious shortcomings in handling TB but also because no government minister had ever had the courage to stand up to them and tell them the hard scientific facts.”


“This was a deliberate challenge to Michael Gove,” says Peter Martin, “we wanted to see if all his public posturing over the environment and animal welfare had any substance. Well now we know.”


“The situation is even worse” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “At the same time as announcing this ‘non-review’ Defra have started consulting on extending the badger culls to the areas of the country which have little or no bovine TB [4]. There can be no rational explanation for this in terms of controlling the disease. Recently revealed data on levels of TB in badgers from the existing cull zones [5] shows that even in the high risk HRA only around 3% of badgers are infected enough to present a risk even to themselves let alone cattle. Badger infection rates will be much lower in the low risk LRA areas of the country.”


“It simply doesn’t make sense,” continues Dominic Dyer, “especially as the government has also just announced a significant expansion and investment in the badger vaccination scheme for the TB Edge Areas and Low Risk areas. They cannot credibly do both. Equally, vaccination has reduced TB levels in badgers to around 1% in the Welsh IAA TB hotspot, which shows how well it works for badgers although there has been no decrease in cattle infections. Overall cattle TB incidents have halved in Wales over five years without any culling of badgers to date. Culling badgers doesn’t work.”


“We can only conclude that the government and farming industry are on a mission to eradicate badgers from all areas of the country based on nothing more than anecdote and opinion, which defies all scientific and expert advice,” continues Dominic Dyer. “This latest series of announcements has effectively removed all protection from badgers on farmland in England. Michael Gove has proved he is prepared to betray not only his own words but also the principles of governing for the public good and that of our environment for which he has been given responsibility. He has already signed the death warrant of 20,000 badgers since taking office and is setting about the process of killing tens of thousands more at the behest of a powerful minority lobby that supports his government. We urge everyone who opposes this to email Michael Gove directly at correspondence.section@defra.gsi.gov.ukk. ”


[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-strategy-for-achieving-bovine-tuberculosis-free-status-for-england-2018-review/bovine-tuberculosis-btb-strategy-review-2018-terms-of-reference

[2]Section 3: Scope - The review will not re-visit the rationale for current interventions in the Strategy. It will take a prospective and not a retrospective view. It is not a review of badger culling.

[3]https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/nfu-leadership-hopefuls-question-goves-commitment-to-badger-cull--51421  Quote - Current livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe, who is standing for both vice and deputy president, said: “We have got to work our backsides off to make sure Gove does not change his position, because at the minute he is on the edge.

“We do not want any reviews, because if we get to that stage, we will struggle.”

Presidential hopeful Minette Batters shared Mr Sercombe’s concerns.

“Michael Gove is going to call a review of all TB policy, so the culling is in a very difficult place”, she said.

[4]https://consult.defra.gov.uk/bovine-tb/badger-control-in-low-risk-area-england/

[5]http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2017-0828/bovine-tb-testing-hra-consult-sum-resp-final.pdf

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