Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Welsh Assembly's 'Witch Hunt for Wildlife'

Release date: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

THE Welsh Assembly has been accused of refusing to listen to scientific reason and of wanting to take Wales back to the Middle Ages, as anger grows over their decision to "cull' badgers in an attempt to halt the spread of bovine TB. The group has accused Elin Jones (Minister for Welsh Rural Affairs) of acting like a "Badger Finder General' " akin to the equally pointless and destructive witch hunts of the 17th Century. Viva!, Europe's largest vegetarian campaigning organisation, have said that the Assembly is sacrificing Welsh wildlife in a cynical attempt to safeguard the seats of rural politicians. They also maintain that killing badgers is a folly, and will not halt the spread of the disease. The group is helping to co-ordinate peaceful and legal methods to fight the decision, including demonstrations and widespread door-dropping across Wales to gather support. Viva! campaigns manager Justin Kerswell, says: "The Welsh Assembly have opened up a Pandora's Box. Despite the largest study ever into bTB showing that killing badgers would make no significant difference to the spread of the disease*, they are pressing ahead with decimating wildlife in Pembrokeshire. It is an intransigent and dangerous path to follow. 'the Welsh Assembly are dragging us back to the Middle Ages. Persecuting badgers for being the main vector for spreading bTB makes as much sense as persecuting black cats for spreading bad luck and witchcraft.' Viva! supporter Judi Hewitt from Rhyl, and organiser of North Wales Animal Rights, says: "Badgers are simply the new scapegoat for failed agricultural policy. The sooner the Assembly faces up to the fact that this is the 21st Century, and the real reason for the spread of this disease is the wrongdoing of farmers and the Assembly itself, we will be one step closer to a solution. Wildlife must not be sacrificed on the altar of political incompetence.' Dr. Adrian Stallwood from Haverfordwest, Viva! supporter and organiser against the "cull' in Pembrokeshire, says: "Speaking to people, there is real anger in the country that this decision has been taken, as it is transparently a political one to protect the interests of politicians and appease farmers. There is even more anger that badgers will be trapped and shot " and their cubs potentially left to starve " and it will achieve absolutely nothing.' "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 bovine TB testing that is inaccurate in one-third of cases, and the mass movement of cattle around the country, and you start to see the real causes of the problem,' adds Mr Kerswell. For more information about Viva!'s campaign against the "cull' of badgers in Wales, visit www.viva.org.uk/badgers ENDS For more information about this media release, contact press officer Helen Rossiter or Justin Kerswell, by emailing press@viva.org.uk or justin@viva.org.uk or call 0117 944 1000. Notes to Editors *The Independent Scientific Group (ISG) conducted a ten year study on bTB. The decision in Wales is despite Hilary Benn (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announcing recently that a non-lethal capture-and-inoculate policy for badgers would be tested in England next summer in six TB hotspots. Regardless of also receiving over 12,000 postcards in opposition to the plans from Viva! supporters and a petition signed by 3,700 residents in North Wales, the Welsh Assembly has pressed ahead with plans for a trial "cull' that could kill around 1,000 badgers. Viva! has been campaigning against "cull' proposals since June 2008, which 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. Visit http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/badgers/rally to see pictures from the event or visit http://blip.tv/file/1056824 to view a short film. The group also held a National Day of Action in Wales on September 20, 2008 against the "cull'. The group maintains the farming industry should look closer to home to identify the cause of the bovine TB epidemic. On February 11, 2009, The National Farmers Union (NFU) was banned from repeating an advertisement placing sole blame on badgers for the spread of bovine TB by the Advertising Standards Agency. 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. 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