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Anglican Society For The Welfare Of Animals Opposes Badger Cull


The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA) has submitted a response to the Government’s consultation on the culling of badgers in connection with TB in cattle (bTB). They strongly disagree with the Government’s preferred option to cull badgers and are disappointed at the failure of the consultation document to attach intrinsic value to badger life. ASWA’s position is that badgers are part of God’s creation and should be valued as such, and this is the underlying principle on which their opposition to a cull is based. They are also concerned about the way any cull would operate.

ASWA is concerned about the welfare issues of a cull. The Government’s preferred option would include allowing farmers and others to shoot free-running badgers, and this will inevitably lead to some badgers escaping with wounds - especially as shotguns are likely to be widely used*. The cull will not be selective and TB-free badgers will be killed alongside affected ones. It is very rare for infected badgers to suffer as a result of infection with TB, so killing them does them no favours.

ASWA also believes that in terms of effectiveness in reducing TB in cattle the Government’s paper fails to make a convincing case, and points out that the authoritative Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), commissioned by the previous Government to advise on this issue, concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain ”. ASWA is concerned that the present Government’s preferred option to license farmers to cull goes against the ISG’s conclusion that “licensing farmers to cull badgers will risk increasing and spreading bTB* in cattle”: this effect is caused because members of badger populations under attack will move outwards, and any infected badgers thus spread the disease to other areas (perturbation).

ASWA supports robust testing and control regimes for cattle (also proposed by the ISG), which have been shown to be effective in reducing the spread of bTB, and learning from farmers who have consistently maintained TB-free herds in areas otherwise heavily infected. They also believe research into why Scotland is bTB-free may also provide relevant answers.

ASWA believes the future lies in the vaccination of badgers and cattle as a key measure. Vaccination of badgers as a viable option is not far away, with a trial currently running in Gloucestershire and research on an oral vaccine under way. However, ASWA regrets strongly that the Government has abandoned other trials planned by the previous one.

In financial terms, even if a successful cull were possible, which ASWA does not believe, the Government’s own consultation paper refers to “the marginal financial benefits that badger control offers”. Indeed, says ASWA, the paper presents no evidence to show that any financial benefits achieved would be greater than the cost of culling.

Concluding Summary ASWA’s opposition to a badger cull is based fundamentally on the value of badgers’ lives as God’s creatures; but also on the suffering involved, the questionable effectiveness of culling, the availability of other more effective options, and strong doubts about cost-benefit. They urge the Government to listen to the public opinion against a cull.

* shotguns are not suitable for a rapid kill at distance in the way rifles are

**bovine TB

www.aswa.org.uk .

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