Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Dairy boycott over badgers could cost industry millions

Release date: 
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CONSUMERS are being urged to boycott all English dairy products, in a move by a leading animal group that could cost the industry tens of millions of pounds. Viva! announced the move in response to today's decision by the Government to press ahead with the slaughter of badgers in parts of England, in a misguided effort to curtail the spread of bovine TB. The group say they expect a significant backlash by many thousands of wildlife-loving consumers across the country who are angry at the decision. Viva! estimates that a dairy boycott could cost the English dairy industry around £30 million a year - but the true cost could be significantly higher(1). The group warns that it could also have a devastating effect on tourism in the South West of England(7). Badgers, who are nocturnal, will be hunted at night with guns. Government body Defra admit that this approach is untested and could make the rates of TB infection in cattle higher by pushing surviving badgers out of their range(2). Viva! campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, says: “If the Government was worried that a 'cull' of badgers would result in a backlash, it was a concern well founded. People are angry that they have not been listened to; they are angry that the science that shows that killing badgers will not halt the spread of TB has been ignored; and they are angry that the English Government's hired hit men are soon going to be riding roughshod over parts of the country gunning for wildlife. The largest ever study of its kind into TB raised this specific concern, and concluded that killing badgers would not work to stem the disease, but could make it worse(3). It has also been condemned by the country's leading badger ecologist as “… scientifically among the worst options they could have chosen. (4) The eminent zoologist Lord Krebs, who as John Krebs wrote the initial report on badgers and TB in 1997, has recently said he did not think culling was “an effective policy. (6) Defra's own figures also show that the root of at least 84 per cent of TB infection lies elsewhere(2). Mr Kerswell adds:“Most people are against the killing of badgers, but are unaware that what they put in their shopping baskets is driving this policy to annihilate wildlife. Without the dairy industry - and certainly an industry that is far more intensive than in the 1970s - badgers would not be in the firing line. Viva! will be calling for a boycott of English milk and all dairy products and will do everything we can to show the public the link between their daily pinta and the death sentence hanging over the country's wildlife. “A major backlash against the English dairy industry is now on the cards - and Viva! will be at the forefront. For more information, visit www.viva.org.uk/badgers. ENDS Notes to Editors Further statement from Viva! “Ultimately, a decision to slaughter badgers across large swathes of England says little about controlling TB in cattle, but a lot about political game playing. The Government is burying the fate of badgers in the considerable shadow of the phone hacking scandal - and then playing a game of 'knock down ginger' as they rush away to attempt to hide from the consequences during summer recess. “To press ahead is a short-termist policy to please rural voters and keep Tory and LibDem politicians in their seats. Caroline Spelman and the rest of the cabinet have the bare-faced cheek to sanction a 'cull' of badgers when, in reality, it is nothing short of a collective case of the emperor's new clothes. Obliterating badgers will do little to affect TB infection rates and obscures the real reasons for the spread of the disease, namely an intensified dairy industry, poor biosecurity, mass cattle movements exceeding 13 million a year and fraud. “We are on the verge of exterminating an indigenous wild animal across parts of Britain for a lie. This is not sentimentalism; the science simply isn't there to support this war on wildlife. It is shocking that the Government is willing to sacrifice badgers on the altar of a dairy industry which refuses to accept any blame for a situation of its own making. “Politicians have ignored consumers at their peril. They didn't listen to science; they didn't listen to common sense; they didn't listen to the thousands that replied to the public consultation. Night shooting increases the risk of non-lethal injury to badgers, and Viva! fears that many could be shot and left to die in agony. Night shooting could also increase the risk to humans. Viva! have also raised concerns that accidents could be used to justify the reintroduction of gassing - an incredibly cruel practice that the Government has refused to rule out using in the future(5). (1) No figures seem to exist for the average spend on dairy throughout the UK, but in Ireland the average yearly spend per household was €774 (£662) in 2008 (Source: The Meat Site). Viva!'s boycott of dairy in Wales saw a sign up of 2,599 people, which it is estimated costs the Welsh dairy industry around £1,720,536 a year. England's population is 17 times higher than that of Wales, and so the cost of a boycott is estimated to be significantly higher - and could reach in excess of £29,249,146 if the Welsh dairy boycott is taken as a baseline. (2) “But this was only with the technique employed in the trials - shooting badgers after they had been trapped in cages. Cage-trapping will not be used in the actual cull, as it is 10 times more expensive than free-shooting. Cage-trapping and shooting costs about £2,500 per square kilometre of land per year, as opposed to only about £200 for free-shooting. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/farmers-call-for-badger-... (3) The Independent Scientific Group (ISG) conducted a ten year study on bovine TB. (4) Dr Rosie Woodroffe, a badger ecologist at the Institute of Zoology in London and who worked for a decade on the largest ever UK study of badger culling, said: “I think it is scientifically among the worst options they could have chosen. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/15/badger-cull-england-ji... (5) “Substantial further work would need to be carried out in this area before gassing could be considered as an alternative culling method. Email to Viva! from Defra dated 12 April 2011 (full details available on demand) (6) Badger cull to prevent TB in cattle a mistake, says key scientist, Guardian, 12 July 2011 (7) Viva! maintains that a 'cull' in the South West could cause a considerable dip in tourism revenue by holiday makers avoiding the area. The revenue generated by the dairy industry is much smaller than that generated by tourism. According to the South West Tourism Alliance tourism is worth £9.4 billion annually to the area alone (http://www.swtourismalliance.org.uk/finance-facts-figures/quick-regional...), but the dairy industry nationally has a national turnover of just around £3 billion (http://www.dairyuk.org/component/docman/doc_download/6500-dick-sibley). This figure is further dwarfed when you consider that tourism is worth a total annually of £115 billion to the country (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10724560). Viva! suggests consumers swap to non-dairy sources of milk and cheese. Many of which are available in a wide range of retailers, including most supermarkets. Free help and advice is also available at www.viva.org.uk. View Viva!'s fully referenced report on TB and badgers. Viva! has been campaigning against 'cull' proposals in England and Wales since June 2008. This has included a National Rally for Badgers, when over 300 people gathered peacefully on the steps of the Welsh Assembly's Debating Rooms to voice objection and national Days of Action across Britain. For more information about this media release, contact press officer Helen Rossiter by emailing press@viva.org.uk or calling 0117 944 1000 or contacting campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell on the same number or by emailing justin@viva.org.uk. Out of hours phone 07944533021 (press enquiries only).