Here is the text of the letter I sent to my Member of Parliament, Amber Rudd, about the government’s proposed badger cull. I will post her response here.
As you know as a resident of the Old Town and as the MP representing the Hastings and Rye constituency, many constituents consider themselves to be very lucky to live in an area where badgers also reside. I am writing to you as my MP and as a member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Select Committee about badgers and the Government’s proposed policy to kill badgers as part of an attempt to reduce Bovine TB in cattle.
I totally oppose killing badgers and find it difficult to understand how DEFRA can state that the policy of badger control is science led because if this was the case simple recognition of the results from extensive scientific investigation that saw many thousands of badgers killed, would not support further killing of badgers.
It is well known that the current tuberculin test applied to cattle results with many inconclusive, false positive and false negative results. This unacceptable regime leaves infected cattle to re-infect other cattle, it removes animals for slaughter that are not infected and causes misery to many farmers. This is the most significant area where major improvement can be gained and where significant improvement must be targeted, until we have the long awaited cattle vaccine. Such improvements have already been realised in Northern Ireland and Wales without badgers being killed. Cattle contract TB from other sources, principally other cattle. This is why TB in cattle is spreading across south-west England and Wales to the rest of the country. Badgers generally do not roam far from their dens. They live within a relatively small area. They certainly do not make long journeys across the countryside. So, it is more likely that the spread of TB-infected cattle is due to the movement of these animals, from farm to farm, from farms to auctions, and from farms to slaughterhouses.
If action against badgers must be included in the policy to reduce Bovine TB in cattle then it should be well recognised that the cost of trapping, killing and disposing of a badger is significantly greater than trapping, vaccinating and releasing the same animal. The advantage of vaccinating is that over a similar time period to killing badgers you would in fact end up with a badger population that was not a risk to cattle. It makes sound economic, political and indeed common sense to vaccinate not exterminate.
I attended a recent public seminar at the Zoological Society of London on this issue which included presentations from Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser, DEFRA, and Dr Rosie Woodroffe, Institute of Zoology, ZSL, who was a member of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB that advised DEFRA. I conclude from their presentations, additional panelists and others who also spoke that if the objective is to have TB-free cattle, well, culling badgers is not the solution.
As I am already familiar with statements made by DEFRA there is no necessity to forward my correspondence onto them. I ask respectfully that you reply by stating clearly your position on this issue, including whether you are for or against the government’s proposed badger cull and why.