Ann Widdecombe casts a vote against proposed badger 'cull'
Former Tory MP and current star of BBC One's hit series, Strictly Come Dancing, has backed animal group Viva!'s campaign to stop impending badger slaughter across England and Wales. Governments in both countries are carrying out public consultations ahead of plans to 'cull' thousands of badgers in the New Year, in an effort, they claim, to prevent TB in cattle. Viva! argue that this policy is seriously misguided and that killing badgers will not help, and may increase the spread of the disease. They also maintain that it will be an animal welfare disaster. Ms Widdecombe says: “There is a strong body of opinion that wholesale culling is not the answer. I wish this project every success in highlighting alternatives. Ben Bradshaw, former minister and Labour MP for Exeter - which is located in the heart of the South West of England, where the toll on badgers is expected to be highest - has also condemned the proposed mass slaughter. He says: “The Government's plan for a badger cull is not supported by the science and is likely to make bovine TB worse. This support comes in advance of Viva!'s National Day of Action for Badgers tomorrow Saturday, November 27). Hundreds of peaceful actions are expected across England and Wales, where people will be encouraged to sign their objections to government plans to kill badgers. Viva!'s campaigns manager Justin Kerswell says: “There is growing anger in the public that British badgers are being scapegoated. The science simply isn't there to pin the blame on them for the spread of TB in cattle. Both governments in England and Wales are ignoring the largest ever study done into the disease, which categorically found that killing these native animals would not halt the disease - and could actually do the direct opposite. “Ruling parties in both countries are clearly in the thrall of the farming lobby. Farmers have refused to change their ways and politicians are keen to keep hold of their seats. This has created a perfect storm situation, where they would argue the sky was green if it meant keeping power and satisfying rural bloodlust. We are on the verge of wiping out one of our most iconic wild animals in parts of Britain, and all for a lie! Mr Kerswell concludes: “The response from the public has been overwhelmingly supportive. Our position is not based in sentimentality; it is based in scientific fact. We are urging everyone who is against badger killing to make their objections clear to the government in their country. For more information, visit www.viva.org.uk/badgers, where readers can also voice their opposition to the plans using a pre-prepared message. ENDS For more information about this media release, contact Viva! campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0117 944 1000 or 0794 453 3021. Or Viva!'s press officer, Helen Rossiter at email@example.com. Notes to editors Public consultations on badger 'culling' are due to end in England on December 8 and December 17 in Wales. Viva! maintains that cattle-to-cattle transmission is the main vector of bovine TB, and that badgers play no major role in the spread of the disease. This view is backed by the results of the 10-year study by the Independent Scientific Group's (ISG) report into the matter, which concluded that “Badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of bTB in Britain. The ISG report also concludes that surviving badgers may move to new areas and this could cause the disease to spread. Recent figures have shown that TB infections in cattle in Britain are actually falling, not rising (36,000 cattle slaughtered in 2009 as opposed to 40,000 in 2008). Viva! maintains that this is evidence that a 'cull' of badgers is not needed and will be counterproductive. The group has also expressed fears that there will be no way of judging the contribution of increased cattle controls vs. badger 'culling' in the role of disease management. Viva! believes that killing badgers will be heralded as working, when it will actually be cattle controls that reduce the disease. In Wales, an area in north Pembrokeshire and neighbouring parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire has been chosen for a trial 'cull'. This area has hard geographical borders such as rivers (which will prevent badgers from moving to new areas). However, Viva! claim that this is bad science, as these controls cannot be replicated across the country. In England, farmers will be issued licences to either shoot or vaccinate badgers. As shooting will be cheaper, Viva! is concerned that most farmers will chose that option. Badgers will either be caught in cage traps and shot, or shot as free-running animals. As badgers are nocturnal this will take place at night and could result in many animals seriously injured and not killed outright. Viva! has also criticised the piecemeal approach in England, where one farmer may shoot badgers and his neighbour will not. This goes directly against the advice of the ISG report. The plans also reveal that dead badgers will not be tested for TB, which means that the level of disease will not be reported. On 16 November, 2010, Lord Krebs - the author of the 1997 report that led to a randomised badger culling trial - asked the government in the House of Lords: "Do you agree with the estimate of your own officials that, based on the results of the randomised badger culling trials, long-term intensive culling of badgers would lead to a 16% reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle over a nine-year period' "Even this very modest reduction, leaving 84% of the problem unaffected, would be only achievable with highly-effective, large-scale long-term culling, otherwise culling will make the problem worse." http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9191000/919... Viva! also maintains that the blame for the bovine TB crisis lays firmly with governments and poor rural management by farmers. Dairy cows produce much more milk now and are in bigger herds than ever before - both of these factors are detrimental to an animal's ability to fight infection. Also, the number of cows killed because of bovine TB is dwarfed by the number killed because of other issues: approximately 90,000 dairy cows culled annually due to mastitis (infection of the udder), 31,000 due to lameness and 125,000 due to infertility. Viva! promotes a vegan diet as a way of saving wildlife and ending the suffering of farmed animals. More on these issues can be found in Viva!'s fully referenced report: http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/badgers/factsheet.htm