England (UK): The Badger Cull – Is It As Effective As What The Government Are Telling The Public ? – Not That Much Is Being Said !!!

England

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/12/secrecy-badger-cull-anti-democratic

The official secrecy around the badger cull is anti-democratic

Defra and Natural England monitors are silent about the culling – so how can we be sure it is being carried out properly?

Patrick Barkham

theguardian.com, Thursday 12 September 2013 13.24 BST

I was pulled over by police twice in the space of 20 minutes last week for being “intimidating”. The second time officers said they had received a call from a member of the public who felt harassed by me. This member of the public was a large bloke driving a pick-up truck which was almost certainly laden with a high-calibre rifle. I was in a people carrier, armed only with a torch. He was enjoying an evening of paid employment killing badgers. I was enjoying an evening of paid employment seeking to discover a few details about the offensively secretive badger cull currently unfolding in the English countryside.

In an incident entirely typical of this cull, the gunman was helped to do his job by the police, who conveniently prevented me from doing mine. On both occasions, officers held me for far longer than it was necessary, to establish I was not breaking any law. This delay enabled the badger cullers to drive away into the darkness and continue their work without having to suffer the terror of a journalist politely stammering, “Excuse me sir, how is the badger cull going?”

We are being kept in the dark over the badger cull, an important and expensive policy which is designed to reduce bovine TB in cattle. There are rational arguments that can be made in favour of this slaughter of 5,000 badgers, but the secrecy with which it is being conducted is suspicious and scandalous. Defra won’t release any details about how it is being carried out. When they are forced to by freedom of information requests, it is so heavily redacted it is meaningless. The National Farmers Union won’t answer questions about the cull; neither will Natural England nor the expert independent monitors – respected academics tasked with assessing the efficacy, safety and humaneness of it.

It is impossible to shine any light on the cull, in west Somerset at least. I’ve visited for five days and long nights in the last two months and the marksmen won’t talk about it, the farmers won’t talk about it, and when you ask local people, anyone who supports it behaves with the kind of bashfulness last seen in the late 1990s, when it was shameful to publicly admit to voting Conservative. Even the landscape is secretive: vast tracts of crown land and hidden valleys with nothing but a dead end road and lonely farmhouse, with a tractor and trailer pulled across the farmyard for protection.

I understand why some farmers have good reason not to talk about the cull. I met a farmer’s wife whose eyes filled with tears as she described months blighted by threatening phone calls from anti-cull activists. I spoke to a farmer who received three arson attacks soon after publicly declaring his support for the cull. Farmers have families and often live in isolated spots where they feel particularly vulnerable. These fears have to be respected.

But farmers in the cull zone are doing themselves a huge disservice with their silence. Country dwellers complain how city types are utterly ignorant of their way of life, but without farmers’ voices it is impossible for the public to understand their point of view – and the valid, persuasive reasons they may have for supporting a cull.

It is a shame that they feel scared because I have also met many of the anti-cull activists and found them to be the gentlest people you could encounter on a dark night in the countryside. The scariest one is a skinny 6ft 4ins vegan with a rape alarm which is set off in the middle of empty fields in the vain hope of scaring distant badgers away from harm. A man carrying a gun who knows how to shoot it and is kitted out with infrared night-vision appears far more of a threat.

At this stage of the cull, the people who really should be speaking, however, are the Defra and Natural England monitors. This is supposedly a pilot cull but we do not have any information about how many badgers have been killed so far, how many have been injured, how the marksmen are ensuring clean kills, who is checking the badger body bags, how fiddling the figures or fraud will be prevented, whether there have been incidences of “unofficial” culling, and many other important details. With no clue about the monitors’ way of working, how can we be sure they are doing these proper checks?

I hate secrecy; everyone in a democracy should. People misbehave when they know they are free to act without scrutiny. The main reason for it in this situation is simple: the cullers know only too well that no amount of reassuring information about the cull’s efficiency, humaneness or safety can disguise the fact that badgers are being shot dead and most of the country finds this distressing and would like it to stop. The only thing that was not secretive in paranoid Somerset last week was Britain’s most elusive mammal. I saw five badgers roaming the countryside after dark: more than any monitors or marksmen. If they are to survive, they’ll have to learn their opponents’ habit of secrecy, and fast.

Owen-Paterson_2077475b

Minister Owen Paterson and PM David Cameron – the two leading figures behind the badger cull.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/12/badger-cull-targe

Badger cull: government refuses to deny marksmen failing to meet target

A minimum of 2,081 badgers must be killed in Somerset but sources say less than 100 have been shot in two weeks

·  Patrick Barkham and Adam Vaughan with video by Laurence Topham

·  theguardian.com, Thursday 12 September 2013 16.07 BST

The government has refused to deny that less than 100 badgers have been killed in Somerset over two weeks, a figure that would mean marksmen had culled less than 5% of the badgers they must shoot in six weeks for the cull to be judged a success.

Asked if a Weston-super-Mare dairy farmer’s claim that fewer than 100 been killed so far was accurate, a spokesman at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), would not confirm or deny the figure. “We are not commenting on operational details,” he said.

A source told the Western Daily Press that more than 60 marksmen working in West Somerset, one of two pilot cull zones, were experiencing major problems. “Only three or four badgers are being shot every day,” the source said. “It is just a case now of who gets the blame for the whole thing failing.”

However, a source close to the cull told the Guardian that such figures “rubbish” and “wildly out”, although they would not say how many badgers had been killed in Somerset.

Marksmen need to shoot 50 badgers each night to hit the target of killing a minimum of 2,081 badgers in the Somerset zone. If 70% of the estimated badger population is not dispatched in this way, the cull will be considered a failure by its own targets.

In his only comments on the cull so far, Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, said earlier this month: “I understand the pilot cull is proceeding to plan and those involved are pleased with progress to date.”

Derek Mead, a dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare, told the same paper: “I understand the West Somerset badger cull may be failing to meet its own target, despite Owen Paterson’s assurances that the operation is proceeding according to plan.

“The information I have been given suggests that at the middle of last week, the number of badgers accounted for was still well below 100.”

Jay Tiernan of Stop the Cull said he was “flabbergasted” that so few badgers had been killed and called for the cull to be abandoned.

“It’s encouraging because we always thought the whole thing would be a farce but we didn’t realise it would be this bad for them and they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the numbers,” he said. “What are they hoping to achieve? The cull should be pulled.”

Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, attacked the government for not saying how many badgers had been culled. “Ministers have failed to answer my questions on how many badgers have been shot. Scientists have warned that a botched cull could spread bovine TB in cull areas, making things worse not better. Ministers should listen to the scientists and drop this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife.”

Activists have struggled to find marksmen who are using night-vision equipment to track badgers and remained undetected but protesters believe that nocturnal “badger patrols” in the area have disrupted and deterred the gunmen.

Dry ground conditions have also forced badgers to roam further from their setts in search of food and activists believe the marksmen are unable to use fixed bait points as planned and are instead desperately searching hedgerows for lone badgers.

According to Tiernan, anti-cull campaigners have just raised £10,000 to fund night-vision kit similar to that used by the marksmen. “With more equipment we expect to have a much higher effectiveness at stopping the cull,” he said.

Another farmer who lives in the Somerset cull zone told the Guardian he was not aware whether marksmen were being successful or not, but said: “The fact that the antis are roaming around in the dark isn’t helping.”

Mead, an influential figure in the region, is in favour of gassing diseased badgers in their setts to control bovine TB in cattle, a technique which was scrapped by the government in 1982 after scientific experiments showed it was inhumane for badgers that received sub-lethal doses of the poison.

The Somerset farmer in the cull zone echoed Mead’s previous call for gassing to be adopted by the government. “It’s far more sensible,” he said. “You haven’t got the disposal problems and if they can identify setts that are affected by bovine TB you’re going to have less badgers to deal with.”

badgers animal aid.org.uk

save me 3

 

http://www.save-me.org.uk/

 

cropped-badgers1.jpg

Brian May Badgers

http://www.save-me.org.uk/

 

 

cameron hunter

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