In April 2014, the UK government announced plans to scrap the south-west badger cull expansion after the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) reported that pilot culls were inhumane and ineffective.
The report is based on the 2013 Gloucestershire and Somerset culls, with the IEP stating in their opening letter to Owen Patterson (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that, “Shooting accuracy varied amongst Contractors and resulted in a number of badgers taking longer than 5 minutes to die, others being hit but not retrieved, and some possibly being missed altogether.”
Although the government has called a halt to the roll out, they are still planning to kill badgers again in the two pilot cull counties this summer. We take five minutes with Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting co-founder Jeanne Berry to talk about the action they took last year and how you can help prevent more badgers being culled inhumanely.
Please could you tell us a little bit about your organisation and how long you have been in operation?
I live in Stroud, Gloucestershire with my husband Nick Berry. Two years ago we set up an organisation called Stroud 100 to prevent the badger cull coming to Stroud. After meeting up with some national wildlife charities, we set up as Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting. It’s grown a lot since then.
We’ve had lots of public meetings and petitions over the past two years asking local councils not to cull their own farmland and to encourage badger vaccination. We create leaflets to inform the public, go onto the streets to talk to people and we spend a lot of time petitioning outside supermarkets asking people to sign up.
A lot of people think the cull has gone away.
This summer there will be unmonitored culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Can you tell us a little more about this?
The plan was for the government to roll it out across another ten areas such as Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. The IEP report concluded that the culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year were inhumane because the badgers took too long to die and some escaped and weren’t killed properly. They were ineffective because they have a target number to kill and they didn’t achieve it at all, so it cost around £5,000 to kill every badger. A lot of people are furious because of the inhumanity.
Based on that damming IEP report the government have cold feet, but they’re staying in Gloucestershire and Somerset. They’ve also said they’re not going to be assessing the cull this time around. This means any badger shot won’t be looked at. There’s no logic and no humanity for culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
What did you do during the 2013 pilot cull to protect badgers?
We set up Wounded Badger Patrol because we knew the cull was going to happen, and we also knew that we couldn’t sit at home and watch Strictly Come Dancing whilst it was happening. We set it up because DEFRA regulations state that ‘all shooting must stop if there are people visible to the shooters,’ and whilst we were looking for wounded badgers we often came across the shooters.
We knew that all the public footpaths in Gloucestershire were in the firing range. If you’re on a footpath and there’s a shooter, those bullets can travel over two miles. That’s why they have to stop shooting. We knew that lawfully we could be on the footpaths looking out for wounded badgers and this would get them to stop shooting if we came across them. The National Farmers Union (NFU) said that we stopped a lot of badgers being killed because the shooters were told by the police that they had to move on.
There’s a lot of confusing information in the media about the role badgers play in the spread of TB amongst cattle. Are the badgers really to blame?
The cattle have given it to badgers, sheep, llamas, horses and, as you’ve seen in the press recently, to cats and dogs.
Only about 5% of badgers have bovine TB. They are thought to store it in reservoirs in their body. We’ve never said they don’t actually pass it on to cattle, but even if you kill every badger in the country cattle would still have bovine TB. The biggest way to pass it on is cattle-to-cattle. The media portray it in a very complicated way. It is a terrible disease in cattle but we want the NFU to work to vaccinate both cattle and badgers.
So is it linked to bad cattle husbandry?
There’s a big issue about how British farmers look after their livestock. For example, badgers should not be able to go into the cattle sheds or drink from the same water troughs. If they are diseased the cattle are going to catch something and if badgers have access that’s another way of passing on TB.
What’s the solution?
Vaccination is the best way forward. We are already vaccinating badgers against bovine TB but we need the government to support it. We also need the government to urgently commit resources to developing a cattle vaccination which is acceptable to farmers.
Join the Wounded Badger Patrol and Read about Lush's collaboration with Brian May to stop the cull.
Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting is one of many campaign groups that receive funding from Charity Pot.
To see what other campaigns and charities we have supported in the UK, you can view the whole list here: