An open letter to Natural England on the badger cull

This letter was sent to btb@naturalengland.org.uk concerning their eight-week extension to the badger culling “trials” in Gloucestershire. I’d encourage as many like-minded people as possible to send emails of their own.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Though I understand that this letter will in all likelihood be ignored, I had to write to express my concern and profound disgust that Natural England has agreed to an eight-week extension of the badger cull in Gloucestershire. As a biological science graduate with an interest in conservation issues, I hold Natural England’s attitude toward this issue and the science surrounding it in deep disdain.No one denies that bovine TB is a harmful disease with devastating effects on the UK’s agricultural sector. However, it is also undeniable that the balance of evidence is strongly against culling badgers as an effective method of TB control, and that this evidence is becoming ever more damning with the continued failure of the cull programme to achieve its stated aims.

The badger cull was originally justified as a six-week trial to determine the effectiveness of such a policy in reducing the badger population and controlling the spread of TB. Now that the six weeks have elapsed, and nothing close to the cull target of 70% of the population has been reached, surely it is time to deem the experiment a failure and consider other methods of TB control, such as vaccination of badgers or imposing tougher biosecurity controls on dairy farmers.

To extend the cull by eight weeks totally contradicts the idea that this was a trial period, and strongly suggests that the intention all along was to allow the slaughter of badgers to proceed regardless of the results. Moreover, it defies the advice of numerous experts in the field, who have repeatedly warned that the botched cull – and its extension – may result in the spread of bovine TB getting worse, not better.

Natural England has also failed to take into account the extremely worrying allegations that illegal methods of culling, such as gassing badger setts, have been practiced by those carrying out the cull. It seems that Natural England is totally blasé about these allegations, which are not only a gross violation of the law, but also an act tantamount to environmental vandalism. The correct course of action would have been to immediately suspend the cull until a proper police investigation was conducted, with prosecutions if necessary.

According to the organisation’s web site, Natural England is there to provide “practical advice, grounded in science, on how best to safeguard England’s natural wealth for the benefit of everyone.”

In taking this decision, Natural England has ignored the overwhelming consensus of scientific evidence on this subject, and agreed to sacrifice part of “England’s natural wealth” – of which our wildlife is surely a part – for the benefit not of “everyone,” but of a small number of farmers and landowners who cannot be bothered to look after their livestock properly.

I urge Natural England to reconsider the decision, and to advise the government – with reasoning grounded in science, and a desire to safeguard England’s natural wealth, of course – that the emphasis on bovine TB control needs to move towards a vaccination programme and improved biosecurity on farms as quickly as possible.

Yours faithfully,
Andy Shaw

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