CHERISHED actor and animal lover Martin Shaw has thrown his weight behind a consumer boycott of English dairy products in protest against plans for a 'cull' of badgers in two pilot areas - announced by the Government today by Caroline Spelman. The move is being spearheaded by campaigning group Viva! - for which he is a patron - as DEFRA publish plans to target the animals who are blamed by the dairy industry for the spread of Bovine TB in cattle. Mr Shaw says: “I support any move to show that badgers have been unfairly scapegoated by the Government and the dairy industry. That is why I support Viva!'s call to boycott English dairy products. By pointing the finger of blame at wildlife the farming unions and politicians are attempting to sidestep a mess of their own making. Namely a highly intensified dairy industry, scandalously bad testing regimes, fraud and mass cattle movements across the country. We mustn't forget that these are the real reasons for the TB crisis. Yet the humble badger will soon be in the crosshairs; a victim of political backslapping and unfounded hysteria - and that is nothing short of a scandal. It is understood the two pilot 'cull' areas will not be in the South West region as previously thought and the actions are unlikely to take place before the end of August next year. Viva! believe there is no other option now but for people who are against the 'cull' to boycott dairy products - to send the industry and Government a clear message that they are appalled by these measures. Justin Kerswell, Viva!'s campaigns manager, says: “What a sad day for badgers and British democracy. Most people don't want to see wildlife sacrificed on the altar of rural mismanagement and political backslapping. Now we have the farce of ostensibly trying to ascertain if chasing badgers at night with firearms is going to be humane. Here's a clue: no it is not. It is going to be a haphazard, unbelievably cruel blood bath - and all for nothing! Science and common sense obviously hold no sway with this Government. There's only one option for those who love badgers and don't want to see them die, and that is hit those that are driving the slaughter. The best way to do that is to send the dairy industry a clear message that you do not support them by boycotting their products. Further legal challenges are expected to be launched against the latest plans by groups backing the badger. It is also feared the pilot 'cull's could be followed by widespread targeting of badgers over areas of the country larger than Devon and Cornwall combined - and might lead to the destruction of over a third of the English badger population. Viva! maintains that the science shows that badger 'culling' will not work to control TB and could make the problem worse. The group also says that consumers could be the key to protecting British wildlife and a boycott could cost the English dairy industry tens of millions of pounds (1). ENDS Notes for editors Viva!'s online petition is at http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/badgers/England.php. The group is hoping to get many thousands of signatures by Christmas. (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 1,738 people, which it is estimated costs the Welsh dairy industry around £1,150,556 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 £19,559,452 if the Welsh dairy boycott is taken as a baseline. Politicians have already expressed fears of a national dairy boycott. Farmers Guardian recently reported: “Shadow Defra Minister Jamie (Reed) said the farming industry needed to be wary of the sort of public pressure that led to the closure of News of the World. “We must avoid situations that encourage the kind of dairy product boycott now being seriously talked about as a possible consequence of a 'free shoot' policy, he said. (2) The National Farmers Union has already identified 33 areas where it wants to kill badgers if Government plans are rolled out after the trials (2). These areas would be at least 150km2, but Defra estimates that the average area will be 350km2 (3). This would equate to 11,550km2 of England where 'culling' could take place - an area larger than Devon and Cornwall combined. The number of badger casualties is difficult to estimate, but Defra minister Caroline Spelman has said that between 1,000-1,500 would be killed in each of the two trial areas (which are both 150km2) over four years. At least 70 per cent of the wild badger populations in each area would be slaughtered - although it is unclear how populations will be measured. If these figures are extrapolated, it would mean that the Government policy could kill around 115,500 badgers over four years in England alone. The total UK population of badgers is put at about 300,000. The Independent Scientific Group (ISG) conducted a ten year study on bovine TB concluded in 2007 that “badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of bTB in Britain . Lord Krebs - the architect of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials - attacked the recent decision by the Government and said that: “[it] …can hardly claim to be based on scientific evidence. (4) (5). It is believed that 'free-shooting' badgers will be the most used method of 'culling' (as it is the cheapest). However, Viva! says that the potential for badgers to be maimed and not killed outright is immense. 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 of licensing farmers to kill badgers: “I think it is scientifically among the worst options they could have chosen and said that she did not believe that the announcement from the Government was scientifically based (6) (7). The group maintains that badger 'culling' will not solve the TB crisis - and that the real reasons are cattle movements in their millions, bad biosecurity, unreliable testing and fraud. More in 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 email@example.com or calling 0117 9148485 or contacting campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell on 0117 9441000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours phone 07944533021 (press enquiries only).