Indira Prasad, Leicester
Despite the success of vaccine trials, the Tories are to extend the badger cull again in 2016. There will be new cull zones in Herefordshire, Dorset, Cornwall and Gloucestershire.
Today, in a climate of economic uncertainty and crippling austerity, the government has so far spent £25 million on slaughtering over 4,000 badgers and denting the ecosystem. In September 2015, a Freedom of Information request revealed the cost per badger stood at £6,775.
The link between bovine tuberculosis and the badger population – and the controversy surrounding the issue – can be traced back to the early 1970s, when a dead badger was identified on a farm in Gloucestershire. Bovine tuberculosis can in rare cases transmit to humans, but pasteurisation makes that risk very small.
2013 saw Gloucestershire and Somerset pilot the first badger cull, which was repeated in 2014. In 2015 it was announced the cull would extend to Dorset, with a target of up to 835 badgers.
Given the public resources invested in the cull, it may come as a surprise that peer-reviewed scientific studies find the cull is not only ineffective, but could be actively counterproductive.
The cull, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), also fails to meet its own humaneness criteria. Autopsies have apparently shown that around 25% of badgers took up to five minutes to die.
Bovine tuberculosis exists within the overwhelming majority of mammals in British wildlife, so singling out the badger population is ineffective in managing the disease in cattle.
Defra’s own data suggests that while 15% of badgers may test positive for BTB, just 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease, meaning 98.4% of badgers pose no risk to cattle at all.
The culling of badgers can actually increase infection levels in cattle due to the ‘perturbation effect’, whereby the removal of a proportion of the badger population in a particular area causes the rest to behave in different, unusual ways.
There are a number of cheaper, more humane and far more effective methods of controlling bovine tuberculosis, such as cattle vaccination, badger vaccination and improved containment. In Wales, the less costly option of vaccination has led to a 48% decrease in cattle slaughter.
The millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent is an outright waste, as independent expert panels have pointed to over and over again. The Tories spent just under £16.8 million on culling in 2015 alone.
I believe that socialists should take a stance against the cull. It is an unscientific, inhumane and ineffective policy, damaging to the environment, and a financial disaster.
Can we justify millions in taxpayers’ money needlessly spent on another year systematically eliminating wildlife? Much better to spend the money on a mass vaccination programme, which could create jobs as well as more effectively managing the disease.
Leicester Animal Rights, along with members of the Socialist Party, have organised the ‘Leicester March Against the Badger Cull’ on 21 May. The march will begin at 12.30pm, Victoria Park, Leicester LE1 7RU and culminate in a rally in Leicester city centre.