British conservationist and broadcaster Bill Oddie and MPs from all sides of the House of Commons are showing their support for a formal complaint to the Bern Convention against the British government’s proposed slaughter of badgers.
The complaint has been submitted by animal protection charity Humane Society International/UK and comes as a new YouGov poll shows that only 12 percent of the public in England think shooting badgers should be the Government’s main focus to reduce tuberculosis in cattle (bovine TB). Sixty percent favour developing vaccines for bTB, while only 31 percent of people explicitly support a badger cull.
HSI UK believes that a badger slaughter would place the UK in breach of the Bern Convention on three main grounds: it lacks legitimate purpose, poses a significant threat to local badger populations and because alternative strategies for controlling TB in cattle and badgers have not been sufficiently explored.
Bill Oddie has been a vocal opponent of the proposed badger cull and is supporting HSI UK’s complaint.
“There is an appalling bloody-minded arrogance about the government’s decision,” he said. "Opposition to the cull is not based on sentimentality, but on the fact that a great deal of thorough research suggests that it won’t work. What is the point of research and consultation when the conclusions are ignored? It implies “we don’t care what you say, we will do what we want.” This is reprehensible enough in itself, but when it involves the death of large numbers of much loved wild animals, it is doubly objectionable."
“Badgers are supposed to be a protected species but it would appear that this government is intent on riding rough-shod over this status,” added Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of HSI UK. "The Bern Convention clearly requires that controlling badgers must not result in serious disturbance to their populations. If that doesn’t save these creatures against being indiscriminately shot at night to kill at least seventy percent of them, what protection do they really have?
“HSI UK hopes the Convention will consider carefully its responsibilities to wildlife and call on the UK government to stop what will be a bloody and pointless slaughter that neither the majority of scientists nor the public supports.”
Badgers are listed in Appendix III of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the ‘Bern’ Convention), and as such the government is committed to regulate any exploitation of badgers to keep populations ‘out of danger’. In order to justify licensing the large scale slaughter of an Appendix III species, the government needs to satisfy certain conditions which HSI UK believes it has failed to do.
- It lacks legitimate purpose – very few cases of bTB in cattle are attributable to badgers and the government’s own best estimates predict only a 12-16 percent reduction in bTB in cattle as a result of killing badgers after nine years.
- Insufficient consideration has been given to alternative non-lethal solutions – Under the Convention, the slaughter of badgers should not be permitted in preference to alternative options such as stricter controls on cattle movement and the development of vaccines, which have a greater chance of reducing bTB, solely because it is more convenient for farmers.
- It is detrimental to badger populations – the Convention requires that control measures must not result in local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to, badger populations. But with badgers being shot at night and with no recent national or local data on English badger populations, it will be impossible to meet this requirement. Without proper data, farmers aiming to achieve the government’s target of reducing populations by at least 70 per cent will not know when to stop killing before the entire local badger population is wiped out.