The news that the Gloucestershire badger cull had missed its target was no surprise to those of us who did not believe that a farmer led free shooting programme could be a success. Indeed, Lord Krebbs memorably referred to it as ‘this crazy scheme‘. However the figures made public today show just what a mess the cull has been with only 17% of the original badger population estimate culled. This figure rises to a 30% if the badger body count is measured against the much lower population that Owen Paterson described as ‘badgers moved the goal posts’. Yet the Press and Parliament were told that Defra (that is Owen Paterson MP and David Heath MP (then the minister for farming) were both ‘pleased with progress‘. A bigger example of disinformation would be harder to find; the Gloucestershire badger cull fiasco writ large.
If the original idea behind the badger cull pilots are examined the whole shambles becomes fully revealed. The objective of allowing private companies licenced by Natural England to carry out badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire was fourfold.
- Could culling be affordable
- Would it be Safe
- Could it be done humanely
- Would culling be effective
Martin Surl Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire has queried the estimated additional £1M policing costs for the original cull proposal and an assumed limited extension. However the idea that culling should go on for another 8 weeks would by my estimation push the bill up to £1.5M. At the AHVLA estimate for badger vaccination of £2000 per km2 that would cover 750km2. when this is valued against the 2010 Defra paper prepared for Defra on cost benefit “Comparing badger (Meles meles) control strategies for reducing bovine bTB in cattle in England” it all starts to look very silly.
Over a 300km2 area, over a ten-year period, vaccination in the core prevented 17.6 breakdowns (11%), culling in the core prevented 26.4 (17%) and ring vaccination prevented 41 (28%). Thus the difference between culling and vaccination appeared to be less than one herd breakdown per year
At least no one has been hurt but an eight week extension into the dark and muddy winter period greatly increases the risks to shooters, landowners and most importantly legitimate protesters.
Since Defra is fighting the Humane Society International Freedom of Information request to publish fully the heavily redacted letter it is not possible to know if badgers have been killed humanely.
Paterson and Heath stated publicly that they were pleased with the progress of the cull measured against the three cirteria of safety, humaneness and effectiveness. If the Gloucestershire cull will take twice as long to cull approximately half as many badgers it is hard to see where this word could apply.
There is one criterion against which the cull can be successfully measured that of perturbation of the badger population within and around the cull zone. Bovine TB cases in cattle are almost certainly going to rise because of the badger cull omnishambles.
The Gloucestershire badger cull fiasco writ large