The Mammal Society’s response to Defra’s consultation on its plans to update the criteria for badger control licence applications
Defra posed three key questions to stakeholders:
- We would be grateful for your views on altering the duration of the culling period. This would involve amending the Guidance to Natural England, which would give greater prominence to Natural England’s discretion whether or not to take action to terminate culling on a case-by-case basis through ongoing assessment of the length of the relevant cull.
- We would be grateful for your views on reducing the minimum area size in which culling could be licenced to take place to 100km2.
- We would be grateful for your views on removing the 70% land access requirement from Defra’s Guidance to Natural England, and retaining only a requirement that approximately 90% of land in the cull area should be accessible or within 200m of accessible land
The Mammal Society provided the following response:
Each of the three proposals outlined by Defra pertain directly to the Defra document “Bovine TB – Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts, held at Defra on 4th April 2011”http://www.bovinetb.info/docs/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf This document defines the minimum criteria whereby a badger cull might lead to reduced TB incidence in cattle. These criteria include: culls “covering at least 70% of the land within the culled area”, “a minimum area of 150km2” and that culling is “conducted simultaneously defined as within a 6-week period each year”.
To The Mammal Society’s knowledge, there is no new scientific evidence to suggest that changing these criteria will result in any benefit to cattle health. Rather, the available evidence suggests that the proposals would reduce the likelihood of a positive outcome for bTB control. Given this, there appears to be no justification for the proposed softening of licensing criteria.
Consequently, The Mammal Society opposes each of the three proposals. The Mammal Society further considers the lack of independent scrutiny of the current pilot culls to be regrettable, not least because this means there is likely to be a lack of scientific evidence as to the outcomes from the current pilots. This means they cannot contribute to future decision making on topics such as those contained within this consultation.
The Mammal Society is also concerned that the culling trials conducted to date have fallen below expected standards of efficacy and humaneness.
It remains the Mammal Society’s position that, based on the best available scientific evidence, badger culling has no meaningful role to play in the control of bTB in cattle.