WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! No more fash by the sea
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When the Badger Trust threatened Natural England with legal action for extending the badger cull, Natural England said the the claim was based on a fundamental confusion, but can you blame them, when those involved in the cull have been so, well, confusing. Between the secrecy, the lying, u-turns and even the blaming of the badgers for not co-operating with being shot. Schnews attempts to digest the badger farce a little...
The theory is that killing badgers will reduce TB in cattle by 16%. Previous trials used traps to catch the animals before shooting them, but this was vetoed as too expensive and too vulnerable to disruption. This time, they've gone for the economy version where the badgers are shot while free running. Vaccinating badgers has been dismissed by government as too expensive though several independent groups are vaccinating. The whole policy ignores the real problems around bovine TB, which you can read about here (SchNEWS 836)
One of the important criteria of the cull is that at least 70% of the badgers in a given area must be killed, to minimise the number of disturbed survivors roaming about spreading the disease further afield - the so-called 'perturbation' effect.
The main problem with this was pretty clear from the beginning; nobody knows how many badgers there in the first place. Previous data showed more about the distribution of badger enthusiasts than badgers.
In 2012, Defra postponed the cull, using the excuse that the badger population was far higher than expected. when their population estimate shot up suddenly. This year, when half way through the process it was clear the cull was floundering, they revised the population estimate down – the famous 'pesky badgers moved my goalposts' moment. In a statistical manipulation worthy of anybody's Five Year Plan, Paterson's Politburo announced that 940 badgers amounted to 65% of the population (Unmolested populations of badgers have shown no sign of these wild oscillations in numbers)
Stalin Paterson has been caught out fibbing about more thasn the numbers though. On 10th October he stated in parliament that ‘…some of the animals we have shot have been desperately sick-in the final stages of disease…’ Mark Jones vet and executive director of Humane Society International said: “As a vet I find Mr Paterson’s claim that badgers shot in the pilot culls were ‘desperately sick’ highly suspicious. I know of no evidence to back this up, indeed all the available data suggests that even where bovine TB is rife among cattle, only a tiny proportion of badgers will be suffering any symptoms of the disease. The figure is perhaps as low as one in a hundred. As Mr Paterson has refused to have the badger carcases tested for TB, he cannot possibly have any scientifically credible data to support his assertion and nobody will be permitted to challenge his claim because DEFRA is having all the bodies incinerated”
In Somerset they have killed 940 badgers, which with the current population estimate of 1450 is 65%. But at one point they said the population was 4300, which meant they had to kill 3000 badgers. If we've got the maths right, 940 is only 22% of 4300. At the end of the original Gloucester period, only 30% had been killed.
The Somerset cull has now stopped but the Gloucester cull zone has been granted an eight week extension.
Action against the cull
The sustained level of resistance to the cull has been impressive, never leaving shooters to operate in peace. Hundreds of people have been spending their nights in the cull zones, often travelling long distances. A single badger killed is clearly one too many but the determined work of so many has helped make the cull a failure. Whatever the government spin says, shooters on the ground have been admitting there was 'no point even turning up most nights.'
SchNEWS spoke to a regular traveller to the cull zones “One of the best things about the cull is how it has brought together such a diversity of people together for the sake of the badgers. There has been good co-operation and acceptance of different tactics with those going on legal night patrols on footpaths working alongside those directly sabotaging the shooters with noise and torches. Meanwhile, the Badger Trust have been fighting the cull in court and the likes of Brian May have been doing the media bit. There have been lively pro badger marches in towns all round the country. Hunt saboteurs have reported an increase in support since sabotaging the cull.Those sorts of alliances and radicalising of the animal loving middle england could be a bit of an own goal for the shooting lobby.”
Info for Action
Policing tactics in the two cull zones have been very different but they haven't in either case suceeded in disrupting the sabotage. Gloucestershire policing has been a lot more pro-active, more arrests and harassment of activists, than in Somerset.
“In terms of tactics, the hardest part has generally been finding the shooters. Good sett surveying beforehand, recording and communicating sightings and sheer numbers of people out looking have all proved helpful. The groups walking footpaths with torches have made certain areas impossible to shoot in and noisy disruption of shoots have stopped them as well. When cage traps are used you can squash them or cut them open with bolt cutters. The cull is still going on in Gloucestershire so get on down there to practice your trap destruction skills.”
The licences for these two cull zones last for four years, but other pilot culls may be started next year. Top of the list is Dorset. Culling has to stop over the winter but may start again in the spring.
An 'independent panel' is supposed to be evaluating the evidence to decide if the trials are successful. Indications suggest that Owen 'shoot the buzzards' Paterson will not accept any thing but approval of the cull.
For more see Stop the Cull
Whilst Dorset hunt sabs were gathered on a public road to document the unlawful activities of the hunt, an angered rider rode his horse at speed into a hunt saboteur – knocking her from her feet and trampling over her with his horse, before riding off laughing.
Bovine TB is on the increase in the areas where badgers were shot last year, but the disease is decreasing in the rest of the country.
Seal cull abandoned after Hunt Sabs and Sea Shepherd join forces.
Otis Ferry, son of Bryan, pays thousands in compensation to hunt monitors he attacked
Debbie awaits sentencing after farce of a court process
The badgers aren't out of the woods yet, as the decision whether to roll out culling hangs in the balance.
The state-sponsored crackdown on animal rights activists continues next month, with the opening of the third 'conspiracy to blackmail' trial relating to vivisection giants Huntingdon Life Sciences in Winchester. Although there are three defendants, two are awaiting extradition from Holland, so the the third, Debbie, will stand trial alone.