Government’s ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’ fails to factor in badgers
Commitment to put ‘animal sentience...at the heart of policy making’ is silent on the ongoing killing of badgers and local extinction risks
Badger Trust, whilst generally welcoming the Government’s Queen’s Speech announcement of a programme of animal welfare measures, has criticised the approach as appearing to exclude any consideration of badgers, or recognise the ongoing badger cull which has to date killed over 140,000 badgers since 2013.
The policy paper ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’ published following the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament on 11 May, begins with George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, stating, ‘We are a nation of animal lovers…’ and ‘The way we treat animals reflects our values and the kind of people we are…’ . Despite this no reference is made to what the future may hold for badgers, as recent proposals still put the Government on track to kill another 140,000 badgers in coming years.
Dawn Varley, Badger Trust Acting CEO, said: ‘Whilst we welcome the policy paper in general as progress for animals, and the statement that the Government is putting 'animal sentience at the heart of policy making' we despair that this progress seems to be at the exclusion of badgers.’
‘It appears that animal welfare and animal sentience matters to the Government, unless the animal is a badger.’
Badger Trust has reviewed the policy paper and responded to relevant sections in Section 8, entitled ‘Wild Animals’:
‘We have an ambitious programme of work that looks both at kept wild animals, and at the conservation of those in the wild.’
Badger Trust welcomes this sentiment. Unfortunately it ignores the fact that the Government has since 2013 killed over 140,000 badgers as part of its bTB eradication policy, and under current proposals, is due to kill around the same number again under continuing cull licences. Badgers are being obliterated, not conserved, whilst being blamed for a problem they are not responsible for.
‘Looking towards animals in the wild, the government is committed to protecting domestic biodiversity’
Badger Trust welcomes this commitment in theory, but in practice believes the current badger cull approach in England threatens the survival of the badger, and has an active complaint under the Bern Convention (in conjunction with Born Free and Eurogroup for Animals) against the Government for threatening the species with extinction at local level.
‘...launch a call for evidence on the use of snares. Some people consider that snares are an inhumane and unnecessary means of trapping wild animals, while others maintain they are an essential tool in controlling foxes and rabbits…’
Badger Trust welcomes this move on snares, which are an outdated, unnecessary and indiscriminate killer of wildlife, often inflicting a slow and painful death not only on the ‘intended target’ but also other wildlife which may be caught. Badgers are often the unintended victims of snares and we stand ready to respond to the call for evidence and push for a total ban on snares.
‘...tackle wildlife crime. This is why we recently invited the UN to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the UK’s preventive and criminal justice responses which are crucial to curtailing wildlife and forest crime nationally and internationally…’
Badger Trust welcomes proactive and positive moves on all wildlife crime, national and international. Badgers are the only species offered protection in UK law due to historic and continued persecution. The charity works closely with the police, other enforcement agencies, and related partner organisations to combat wildlife crime, and promotes public awareness through its ‘Stop Badger Crime’ campaign. However Badger Trust believes the ongoing cull negatively impacts on the understanding and reputation of the badger, falsely fostering a belief that it's ‘fair game’ to persecute badgers as the Government does it on a mass scale.
Act Now For Animals
Prior to the Queen’s Speech, Badger Trust joined 50 animal welfare charities in a coalition to urge the Government not to waste a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to redefine our relationships with animals.
The coalition’s report ‘Act Now For Animals: No Animal Left Behind – proposals for an Animal Welfare Strategy’ set out 40 recommendations covering companion animals, wildlife and farm animals. The report specifically outlines important measures to protect wild animals, such as ending the mass culling of badgers, banning the use of inhumane trapping methods – including snares and glue traps – and strengthening the Hunting Act. Badgers, and the badger cull in England, were specifically highlighted, with recommendation 29 in the report’s ‘Wildlife’ section stating:
‘Government must act on recent commitments to phase out the mass culling of badgers in England in favour of more humane and effective alternatives by immediately ceasing issuing licences that permit controlled shooting as a method of culling and stop issuing new or further supplementary licences.’
From 'Act Now For Animals: No Animal Left Behind'
Read the animal welfare coalition’s ‘Act Now for Animals’ Report
Read the Government’s ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’ section on Wild Animals
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