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"Irish badger cull is slaughter masquerading as science": Conservationists

4th June, 2003

Here we present a media statement issued on May 31st by the UK-based National Federation of Badger Groups. The statement relates to the Irish Department of Agriculture’s massacre of tens of thousands of badgers as part of its flawed TB Eradication Scheme.

Claims by Irish scientists that exterminating badgers can reduce TB in cattle by up to 90%, were today lambasted by conservationists.

The claims were made on Radio 4's Farming Today programme (31 May 2003) by Irish scientists working on the so-called 'Four Areas Badger Removal Trial'.

"The Irish research is laughable. It has no scientifically valid 'controls' whatsoever. It is little more than slaughter masquerading as science and is no better than Japan's so-called 'scientific whaling'," said Dr Elaine King, chief executive of the National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG). The NFBG coordinates the views of conservation organisations representing more than five million members on the bovine TB issue.

"Research into whether a disease treatment is effective should always be complemented by 'controls' in which no treatment is applied. This is a fundamental rule is applied to everything from drug tests to the British Government's ongoing Krebs experiment into badgers and bovine TB. But Ireland has simply ignored these scientific standards, so its results are worthless.

"Furthermore, Ireland has never undertaken any research to assess whether badger culling is the most cost-effective or most humane way of controlling bovine TB. Irish scientists kill badgers by strangling them with a wire, and shooting those that survive the snare. We hardly think that such an approach will encourage consumers to buy Irish dairy produce."

The NFBG argues that, because farming is a more significant part of the economy in Ireland than in Britain, the Irish government lacks the courage to compel farmers to control TB through cattle-based measures even though there is clear evidence that such a strategy could be effective.

"In the wake of foot and mouth disease, the British Government grasped the nettle and this year cattle-based TB control measures will be introduced to manage the disease," said Dr King. "Clear evidence already shows that cattle are infectious with TB long before the disease is detected by the standard skin test. These cattle played a major role in spreading TB to new hotspots after foot and mouth disease.

"Irish scientists like to give the impression that badger culling will solve Ireland's bovine TB problem. But they cannot say how the trial could be implemented in reality. Do they really plan to exterminate all the badgers in Ireland in order to control a disease which has a low incidence in cattle?"

badger dead in snare
"The Irish research is laughable. It has no scientifically valid 'controls' whatsoever. It is little more than slaughter masquerading as science and is no better than Japan's so-called 'scientific whaling'." (Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Badger Groups).

The NFBG promotes the conservation, welfare and protection of badgers, their setts and habitats. It represents and supports 83 local voluntary badger groups throughout Britain, provides expert advice on all badger issues and works closely with the police, and other conservation and welfare organisations.

Positive Solutions

The NFBG believes the following positive solutions are priorities for the Government:

  • Restricting the movement of cattle from bovine TB areas
  • Improving cattle health and hygiene, backed by research and grants to help farmers
  • Developing an improved test for bovine TB in cattle
  • Testing cattle more frequently
  • Testing cattle before they are sold or moved off a farm
  • Researching the transmission of bovine TB, especially between cattle
  • Researching other factors leading to TB in cattle
  • Including bovine TB test dates on cattle passports
  • Developing a bovine TB vaccine.

ICABS Action Item: Save the Irish Badger

The Department of Agriculture has employed 75 individuals who are currently busy with their task of snaring and killing one third of Ireland's badger population (that's an estimated 83,000 badgers). Despite the fact that there is no proven link between badgers and the spread of bovine TB, the Government is continuing to persecute this supposedly protected species. Please write to the following and demand an end to the Irish Government's appalling operation to decimate the badger population. Many of you have written already on this issue but please take the time to write again.

1. Write to the Council of Europe urging them to take action to prevent the Irish Government from slaughtering thousands of more badgers.

Eladio Fernandez-Galiano
Chef de la Division du Patrimione Naturel
Convention of the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tel: 00 33 3 88 41 20 00.
Fax: 00 33 3 88 41 37 51.

2. Write to the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh, asking him to immediately stop this terrible assault on the badger - a "protected species" in Ireland, believe it or not!

Joe Walsh, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Agriculture House
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
Tel: 01-607 2892 or LoCall 1890-200 150.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

Images of dead badger in Department snare

The following images show a badger dead in an Irish Department of Agriculture snare. At the base of the tree to which the snare is attached are scratch marks where the badger desperately tried to claw its way to freedom. Photos by Peter Akokan.

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