Welsh Assembly urged to reverse decision to slaughter badgers
Saturday, June 28, 2008 Cardiff's Welsh Assembly Debating Rooms at 1.30pm A photo call and rally will be held outside Cardiff's Welsh Assembly Debating Rooms at 1.30pm on Saturday, June 28, by national campaigning organisation, Viva!. Its message is that the proposed cull of badgers will be an animal welfare disaster of immense proportions that will do nothing to solve the problem of TB in cattle (bovine TB - bTB) in Wales " it may even make it worse. The group are calling on Elin Jones (Minister for Welsh Rural Affairs) to act on the available science and cancel the cull. A mother and father "badger' will be joined by children dressed as baby badgers. Surrounding them will be hundreds of animal and wildlife lovers from across Wales and the rest of the UK. They will be wearing eye-catching badger masks and holding dual-language signs saying "Stop the cull!' and "Atal Y Cwlio!'. Viva! maintain that the biggest ever scientific study of badgers and bTB ever undertaken did not support culling. The ten year report by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) published in 2007 and chaired by Professor John Bourne (Animal Health, University of Bristol) concluded that "badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of bTB in Britain.' The authoritative report also found that "culling' would increase the spread of the disease by displacing badger populations. It is not badgers who are responsible for the spread of the disease but poor husbandry and the intensification of farming practices. Herds are now twice the size they were in the 1970s with cows so overworked that they are increasingly unable to fight off infection. The number of infections has gone up as cattle movements have increased, with 110 million cattle having been moved around the UK in the last ten years. These findings are supported by the ISG. 'In their eagerness to blame anyone but themselves for the bovine TB epidemic, farmers are targeting wildlife when they should be looking closer to home,' says Viva! director and Welsh resident Juliet Gellatley. "The rush to intensify animal agriculture has led to this disastrous situation. Dairy cows suffer the dual burden of pregnancy and lactation during much of their lives. Their immune systems are shot to pieces and they are physically exhausted and killed after just two or three lactations, at four or five years old. Add to this unreliable bTB testing that is inaccurate in one-third of cases and you start to see the real causes of the problem. 'A cull of badgers in Wales will decimate wildlife, cost a huge amount of taxpayer's money and achieve nothing. It is quite incredible that the Welsh Assembly simply ignored the available science in its rush to mollify dairy farming's Neanderthal tendency. "We not only call on Ms Jones to reverse the decision but are calling on consumers to reject meat and dairy " the very things that are driving this problem.' ENDS Notes to editors Viva!'s campaign is supported by Welsh AMs Lorraine Barrett (Cardiff South and Penarth) and Trish Law (Blaenau Gwent). Quotes are available from them and from celebrities including Twiggy, Joanna Lumley, Wendy Turner-Webster, Benjamin Zephaniah and Rose Elliot. The rally is also supported by Secret World Wildlife Rescue and other wildlife groups. A fully referenced Viva! fact sheet on badgers and bTB can be read on-line at http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/badgers/factsheet.htm For further information and to arrange media interviews contact: Juliet Gellatley 0117 944 1000; mob 07971 425508 or 0794 453 3021 (Viva!'s director and Chepstow resident); Tony Wardle 0117 944 1000; mob 07971 622606 (Viva! associate director); Justin Kerswell 0117 944 1000; mob 07862 173377 (Viva! campaigns manager) and Helen Rossiter 0117 944 1000; mob 07977 463057 (Viva! press officer).