Legalised Free-for-all Shooting of Badgers

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As a long time campaigner on animal protection issues, I was horrified to read of ministers’ plans for a legalised free-for-all shooting of badgers in our countryside (‘Shooting badgers to be legal under plans for big society cull’, 14 April). The idea that ‘groups of volunteers’ would be given permission to organise their own ‘shooting expeditions’ in a manner akin to bloodsports is obscene and unworkable. Given that the Government has so far failed to respond publicly to the Defra consultation on a badger cull, this proposal also smacks of cowardice and looks suspiciously like policy on the hoof.

Even aside from the free shooting proposal, the determination of this Government to introduce culling as a solution to bovine TB is highly misguided. The Independent Scientific Group on Badger TB conducted a randomised cull trial over a 9 year period, at a cost to the taxpayer of £50 million, which destroyed 10,000 badgers. In its final report, the ISG concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better”.

Eighty percent of bovine TB transmission is thought to be caused by cattle-to-cattle infection. Given that it is a respiratory disease, this high rate can be attributed to the trend towards intensive dairy farming, in which cattle are kept in crowded conditions. Rather than cruel and ineffective mass culling, restrictions on cattle movement and contact between badgers and cattle should be given high priority, in addition to research into vaccination as an effective alternative.

With this in mind, ministers should urgently take heed of the concerns raised by the National Wildlife Crime Unit and animal protection organisations about the practical and ethical implications of a free shooting policy – and drop its blind commitment to the cruel and unnecessary culling of a legally protected species.

Caroline Lucas MP

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One Response to “Legalised Free-for-all Shooting of Badgers”

  1. jane mills Says:

    It seems ome that if the farmers did not keep their cattle in overcrowd conditions the spread would be lessened.

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