We stand up for badgers and oppose the killing of large numbers of healthy badgers as part of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) plans to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
The Stop The Cull petition in response to DAERA's consultation is now closed. The final number of signatories are still to be confirmed, but we have certainly exceeded 5,800.
We will now be working with the USPCA petition to de-dupe signatures which will then be submitted to DAERA.
We are reviewing our next steps in relation to the Government plans and will update this page over the coming weeks and months.
What is bovine tuberculosis?
Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a highly infectious disease of cattle that significantly impacts thousands of farms annually.
The spread of bovine TB is primarily through cattle to cattle transmission, with animals spreading the disease mainly through coughing and sneezing, thus releasing bacteria into the air that are then inhaled by other animals in close contact. This disease also spreads from infected cows to their offspring during suckling.
Since the mid-1980s, the incidence of bovine TB in cattle has increased substantially, creating an economic burden on the taxpayer, as infected cattle must be culled and compensation paid to farmers.
DAERA's proposals for a badger cull
DAERA is proposing a cull of healthy badgers as part of wildlife intervention measures proposed in its new bovine TB eradication strategy.
The current proposals involve a non-selective badger ‘cull’ within bovine TB hotspots, using the controlled shooting of free-roaming badgers, delivered and paid for by farmer-led companies. 4 out of 5 of the badgers killed (minimum of 80-85%) will be healthy and not infected by bTB.1
1A report by DAERA in August 2012 collated all the post mortem results from badgers killed in road traffic accidents since 1999. This showed a prevalence of TB in badgers of 20%. More recent figures in 2019 show a reduction to 17%.
Our position: killing of healthy badgers is not the answer
We recognise that bovine TB is a complex and costly disease that causes substantial hardship to the farming community and that there is a need to find the right mechanisms to control it. However, we believe the slaughter of healthy badgers is not acceptable or proportionate in addressing the low level of risk associated with transmission of this disease by badgers, which are a protected and native species.
Hundreds of thousands of badgers have been killed in England and the Republic of Ireland over recent years during badger culls, but with minimal impact on bovine TB levels in cattle. In fact, DEFRA has recently announced that new culling licenses are to be banned after 2022. In contrast, Wales has seen similar changes in the incidence and prevalence of bovine TB in cattle by effectively dealing with the primary factors in transmission, such as animal movements and biosecurity, rather than adopting a widespread badger cull.
Our clear preference is that badger vaccination should be the main approach adopted to control bovine TB in the badger population. However, if wildlife intervention is to be part of the strategy, we could support a combination of the ‘Test–Vaccinate–Remove’ (TVR) approach combined with wider badger vaccination, as a more ethical approach (where only TB positive badgers are euthanized), which has been shown by DAERA’s own research project to be effective.
We would also like to see legislation introduced urgently to allow laypersons to be trained in badger vaccination, as is the case in England and Wales, and for continued focus on cattle testing and improvements to biosecurity.
What is the more ethical Test-Vaccinate-Remove (TVR) approach?
TVR involves trapping badgers in cages and testing them for bovine TB in the field through a blood test. Any badgers that test negative are vaccinated and released, and any that test positive with advanced tuberculosis are humanely euthanized and therefore ‘removed’.
Research commissioned by DAERA and carried out by the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute showed that TVR is a viable alternative to an indiscriminate badger cull.
Badgers are a valued species in Northern Ireland, protected by law. 25% of the European population is found in the UK, so we have an international responsibility to conserve them.