The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the Government’s decision not to roll out badger culling using controlled shooting to new areas and is calling for further detail and assurances before it could support the continuation of the pilots later this year.
In early April the Government published the Independent Expert Panel’s report into the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of the two pilot badger culls that took place in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year as part of the Government’s strategy to eradicate bovine TB.
The IEP findings showed that the pilots had failed to meet the criteria for effectiveness overall (i.e. in terms of the number of badgers removed) and that the method of controlled shooting had failed to meet the criteria for humaneness.
The Government announced that badger culling would not be rolled out to other areas but that the pilot culls would continue in Gloucestershire and Somerset to complete the four years of culling set out in the original plans. DEFRA also announced that improvements would be made to the pilot culls.
Last week (16 April) BVA Council (made up of representatives from BVA’s specialist divisions, elected regional representatives, devolved branches, officers and committee chairs) agreed a position that:
· recognises that evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial suggests that if culling in the pilot areas is stopped now there is a significant risk that this will lead to an increase in TB in cattle in those areas
· states that BVA could only support further culling in the pilot areas if steps are taken to improve both its effectiveness and the humaneness of controlled shooting and if there is robust monitoring and collation of results, and independent analysis and auditing by a non-governmental body
· supports the IEP’s recommendations for improving effectiveness and humaneness and urges DEFRA to implement all the IEP’s recommendations fully
· states that DEFRA’s current response to the IEP’s recommendations does not provide BVA with sufficient detail or assurances to satisfy us that it will deliver the necessary improvements in effectiveness or humaneness
BVA is now seeking further dialogue with DEFRA to clarify the Government’s response and strengthen the implementation of the proposed improvements.
Commenting, BVA President Robin Hargreaves said:
“BVA has always been clear that we could not support the roll out of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be inhumane or ineffective, and we therefore welcome the Government’s decision not to roll out the cull to new areas.
“However, we must also take a position that will deliver the best possible outcomes for disease control and we know from evidence in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial that if culling in the pilot areas is stopped now there is a significant risk that this will lead to an increase in TB in cattle.
“In reaching our position we have carefully weighed up both the scientific evidence and ethical arguments, as well as considering the views of our individual members and specialist divisions.
“It is absolutely essential that significant changes are made to the pilot culls to address the issues of effectiveness and humaneness. The IEP has made strong recommendations to DEFRA and we not only urge DEFRA to implement them all fully but will be looking for detailed assurances of how this will be done before deciding whether we could support the continuation.
“We also believe that robust monitoring and collation of results, and independent analysis and auditing by a non-governmental body is imperative.
“We will be meeting with DEFRA as soon as possible to discuss all of these issues.”