Like ‘banging our heads against a brick wall’ says RSPCA
A Christmas carol has been given a sinister twist after the government today confirmed details of a pilot badger cull in England.
RSPCA singers showed their bitter frustration at the unfestive announcement by adapting the words of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’. In the topical take on the song, twelve furry badgers are shot, while five cows are still sick, four farmers still angry, three MPs still confused and one vaccination still unused.
News that a cull has been confirmed comes despite fierce opposition and years of contentious debate. The proposals are part of a package of measures aimed at controlling bovine TB in cattle but eminent scientists, animal welfare experts and high-profile figures such as Sir David Attenborough all believe that a cull is not the way to tackle these problems.
Stacey Frier, senior parliamentary adviser, said: “We, and so many others, have been telling the government for years that this cull is not the answer to the problems with bovine TB but they are just not listening.
“We feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall for ages. So we have decided to sing about our frustrations instead.”
The RSPCA was devastated when it was announced in July that the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was ‘strongly minded’ to go ahead with the proposals which have today been confirmed.
The announcement comes despite 100,000 signatures from the general public being handed to the government last month (October) to protest the plans.*
It also comes despite scientific studies** which have shown that culling would be of little help in reducing the disease, and could actually make things worse in some areas.
The RSPCA agrees that action is needed to deal with the ravishing effects of the disease, but believes that vaccination and cattle controls would be more effective and humane alternatives to dealing with the problems.
Recent projects*** showed that vaccination in particular could be a promising, practical way of combating bovine TB in cattle. However, in June 2010, the government reduced the plans to vaccinate badgers in England from six areas to one.
Colin Booty, senior wildlife scientist, said: “It is not as if there aren’t alternatives to a cull. Vaccination could be a more effective and sustainable way of dealing with the disease, and one which does not involve killing most of the badger population in very large areas of the countryside.
“It has now been nearly a year and a half since the government decided to dramatically scale back the vaccination projects that had been planned. If they had gone forward, who knows how much nearer we may have been to a proper solution. Sadly, the impression is of a government more interested in killing badgers than vaccinating them.”
Notes for editors
— A viral video of the RSPCA Christmas carol is available at https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1314131756/9eaddaa45b636d545a5d68e18cf54c84
— * Petitions from the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and campaign group 38° were handed in to the government in October. Between them they contained 100,000 signatures.
— ** The Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB (ISG) published its final report in 2007. It was the result of painstaking research over nearly ten years, cost the lives of about 11,000 badgers and cost taxpayers £50 million. It concluded that killing badgers could actually increase the spread of bTB in the area around the cull, making matters worse rather than better – a process called perturbation. It said, “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”
Recent evidence said that bTB is endemic in over 39,000 km2 of England.
— *** More than 1200 badgers have been vaccinated over the last 18 months in Gloucestershire, in separate projects undertaken by the Food and Environment Research Agency and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, assessing the practical use of a vaccine. Other organisations have also recently begun vaccinating badgers in some areas.
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