We at Save Me are disappointed and profoundly saddened at the news that Theresa May’s government is to escalate its culling of badgers. In 2014 the governments own Independent Expert Panel (IEP) determined that the cull was cruel and ineffective; the panel was promptly sacked for reporting these findings. Recent new research has confirmed the conclusions of the massive RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial, 1997-2007) research document, which concluded that “culling badgers can make no appreciable contribution to the control of TB in cattle” and the government have been unable to come up with a single shred of evidence that the cull is actually working. Some sections of the farming community are now acknowledging that badger culling is a dead-end policy and are seeking solutions that directly address the transmission of the disease in the herd - this is now perceived by the vast majority of experts in the field as the real prime mechanism for the propagation of Bovine TB, not badgers. In the light of current knowledge, the governments' decision to press on with a policy which is already failing, while costing the tax-payer millions of pounds in wasted effort, is extraordinary.
The government responded to this petition when it received 10,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the government’s response was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. There are four key inaccuracies in the government response:
(1)The response claims that recent experience in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Dorset has shown that licensed culling “is safe, humane and effective in reducing the number of badgers needed to bring down disease levels in cattle”. This statement conflicts sharply with the available evidence. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) established by Defra to evaluate the first year of culling concluded that the free shooting approach did not meet their standards for humaneness1. When a second year of culling yielded no evidence of improvement, the British Veterinary Association called for free shooting to be abandoned2. Ministers responded by simply stating that “we don’t agree”3. The government’s claim that licensed culling is “humane” is thus not shared by respected authorities on animal welfare.
Likewise, evidence indicates that the culls have not been “effective in reducing the number of badgers”. Defra has repeatedly stated an intention to reduce badger numbers by at least 70%, relative to their pre-cull levels, acknowledging that failing to do so would risk increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it4. The IEP concluded that the first culls fell far short of that aim1. Since then, Defra has reiterated its aim of reducing badger numbers by “at least 70%”, while quietly setting targets with only a slim possibility of achieving this aim5. Defra’s claim that the culls are “effective” is thus not consistent with available evidence.
In the UK, we have a long history of reform brought about by peaceful protest - from the ‘Chartists’ and suffrages, the abolition of slavery, to the reform of our parliamentary system. We are deeply concerned about the comments of the National Farmers Union last week that claimed information relating to the badger cull being published was variously, “illegal activity, attempting to intimidate farmers” and the “reprehensible” action of “leaking information which could lead to farming families being targeted”.
Queen Guitarist Brian May, founder of animal welfare organisation the Save Me Trust and Team Badger, a coalition of animal groups against the cull, today reacted to leaked reports the culls are to be extended into five new areas of the UK beginning in September.May today issued a statement saying:
“So the Government is extending the already failed badger cull ?
This Boxing Day, hunts will gather to parade in villages across England and Wales for the traditional Boxing Day meet. But this year there will be a new atmosphere - a wind of change. A few months ago there was an attempt by Cameron and his merry men to undermine the Hunting Act with a ‘Statutory Instrument’. It would have reopened the door to full scale blood hunting but it was foiled, not just by Cameron’s political opponents, but also by a courageous band of Tory MP’s who refused to be bullied into supporting an act of Parliament which would take away the protection of our wildlife from cruelty.
Two leading Scientists, Christl A. Donnelly Imperial College London, and Rosie Woodroffe, Institute of Zoology, London reveal in an article, published today for www.nature.com magazine that the latest badger culls unlikely to stop TB.
Dr Brian May, founder of the Save Me Trust, will be taking part in the bTB “read test” with Crediton, mid-Devon, farmer Malcolm Huxtable on Thursday 29th October. This is being filmed for BBC Inside Out. Dr May, together with Anne Brummer, CEO of The Save Me Trust, has campaigned tirelessly for an end to the badger culls, and runs a badger vaccination project known as BACVI (Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative) that works with farmers, primarily in the South West. There has been a lot of criticism from farmers in respect of the accuracy of the tuberculin skin test. To carry out a skin test the tester has to clip two small areas of skin in the middle of the animal’s neck, measure the thickness of both sites using callipers and inject into the skin of the neck with a small volume of each tuberculin.
The Save Me Trust’s most recent legal challenge to the government’s badger culling programme was turned down this week, when our application for a Judicial Review was denied on a appeal by a single judge.
But the fight against this ineffective and cruel programme continues on all fronts. In particular DEFRA’s own recently published figures show that the incidence of bTB was in any event declining in both Dorset and Gloucestershire in the 3 years before the culls even began. The decision of the government to proceed with the culling in these areas appears to be contrary to DEFRA’s own policy published in 2011 which promised in terms that no culling would take place if the incidence of bTB was falling in a specific place.
The killing of Cecil the Lion lured from his home in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by American Trophy Hunter Walter Palmer in July this year, shocked and outraged people around the world.
Cecil was a popular figure within the park, head of his own pride and the subject of a research project by Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). Although Cecil had a conspicuous radio collar around his neck, making it clear that he was not ‘wild’, Palmer shot him with a crossbow, followed the wounded and suffering lion for hours, and finally killed, decapitated and skinned him, claiming his black mane was the trophy he most wanted on his wall. Dr Brian May’s Save Me Trust are calling for the creation of a “Cecil’s Law” in the UK - a fitting legacy for this magnificent creature who, by his death, opened millions of eyes to the disgusting 'sport' of trophy hunting, and ‘canned hunting’ in which wild animals are actually bred in captivity purely to be slaughtered for fun.
Dr Brian May, Queen guitarist and founder of the Save Me Trust has spoken out after former Defra Secretary Owen Paterson claimed 'An extraordinary reduction' in bovine TB disease levels seen in the Somerset and Gloucestershire pilot areas proveing badger culling works.
Dr May said “Calling an ex-minister a liar is, of course, a very serious accusation, but, in the light of new expert analysis of the statistics on the Government's badger cull, it is an inescapable conclusion. Much more serious is the fact that Owen Paterson is apparently deliberately misrepresenting the facts to the farming community, giving them false hope that killing badgers will solve their bTB problem. We, the public, of course, continue to foot the bill for this cruel, misguided, and ultimately doomed policy.”
The Save Me Trust confirmed that the lawfulness of the decisions to issue the licences today will be challenged by a Judicial Review in the High Court. To continue the culling of badgers is unlawful as it does not rationally serve the statutory purpose which permits the killing of badgers only to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of disease. Additionally, there has been a fundamental failure in the consultation process, a logically flawed approach in calculating badger numbers and a failure in Gloucestershire - in any event - to meet its minimum targets in 2013 and 2014.
Dr May said, “We are all hugely disappointed that the Government has decided to continue its cull policy, despite Natural England's Scientific Advisor branding the badger cull 'an epic failure’. The government should quit now, and save the taxpayer more fruitless expense”.
A full statement will be issued here on our current legal challenge against Natural England and the Badger Cull on Tuesday 1st September.
Save Me Trust
Lawyers instructed by the Save Me Trust have today written to the Chief Executive and the Chief Legal Advisor of Natural England warning them that if any licences to cull badgers are either activated in Gloucestershire and Somerset or any new licences granted for this purpose anywhere, then the lawfulness of the decisions to do so will be challenged by a Judicial Review in the High Court. To continue the culling of badgers is unlawful as it does not rationally serve the statutory purpose which permits the killing of badgers only to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of disease. Additionally there has been a fundamental failure in the consultation process, a logically flawed approach in calculating badger numbers and a failure in Gloucestershire in any event to meet its minimum targets in 2013 and 2014.
CEO Save Me Trust