From League Against Cruel
The proposed trials are part of government efforts to tackle the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) amongst cattle. The disease has a devastating effect on farmers and tens of thousands of cattle are slaughtered each year as a result.
Badgers were discovered to be infected with bTB in the mid 1970s and they have since been implicated in the transmission of infection to cattle.
Following a ten year study in which 10,000 badgers were trapped and
culled to establish whether localised culling of badgers helps to reduce
bTB, the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) who carried out the experiment
concluded that ‘badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future
control of cattle TB in Britain’.
What is happening in the trials?
The trials are designed to test the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the controlled shooting of badgers.
Currently the government proposal is to “free shoot” badgers in the trial areas. The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have issued best practice guidance for controlled shooting, which can be carried out with a high velocity .22 Calibre rifle or 12-bore shotgun.
The specific reason for carrying out these culls is not to reduce bTB, but to test the practicalities and humanness of free shooting. Despite this, Defra have not publically released the criteria they are using to determine whether or not controlled shooting proves to be a humane way of killing badgers.
A Defra report obtained by the Humane Society International (HSI) under a Freedom of Information request, states that injured animals could die from bleeding, hyperventilation, shock, secondary infection or starvation. The report admits that “no shooter will have prior experience of shooting badgers”. It also states that observation of behaviour and vocalisation are the only way to assess the degree of pain experienced while a shot badger is dying. No indication is given as to how this information will be collected, or how it will be used to assess humaneness.
The shooting will take place at night with the shooters having a permit to kill at least 70% of the badgers in each of the trial areas. The killing will be non-selective, but the majority of badgers killed will be healthy. Of the small percentage of badgers which may be carrying bTB, very few will be infectious and therefore capable of transmitting the disease.