As the open season for shooting badgers begins on 1 June, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is reiterating its support for the planned badger cull pilots as part of the overall bovine TB eradication strategy in England.
Although the shooting of badgers is not expected to start until later in the season the BVA is responding to activity amongst those who oppose the cull and appealing to them to allow the necessary scientific work to take place unhindered in the two pilot cull areas.
The BVA pointed to the evidence base behind the policy – data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCTs) – which shows that bovine TB in cattle can be reduced by around 16% in areas where a targeted, humane badger cull has taken place. The pilot culls will use different culling methods to the RBCTs and are therefore being monitored by the Independent Expert Panel made up of experts in veterinary pathology, animal welfare physiology, wildlife ecology, badger behaviour, wildlife management, ecological theory, statistics, and marksmanship.
Commenting, Peter Jones, President of the BVA, said:
“We have not taken the decision to support the pilot badger culls lightly; we have considered all of the scientific evidence, which supports the management of bovine TB in badgers in order to reduce the incidence of the disease in cattle.
“We accept that there is a gap in our knowledge, which is whether controlled shooting can deliver a badger cull humanely and safely, and to the same degree of effectiveness as cage trapping and shooting. That is what the pilots are designed to address and why is it important that they are allowed to go ahead unhindered.
“We understand that this is a highly emotional issue but we must be able to gather the evidence to enable future policy decisions to be based on science.”