17 Jul 2019
BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England
BVA has called for the four-year culls of badgers in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to be completed using the ‘tried and tested’ method of cage trapping and shooting only. In light of the results from two years of culling in the two pilot areas, BVA has concluded that it can no longer support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy.
Following a full discussion at BVA Council, at which a wide range of views were expressed, BVA concluded that the results from the first two years of culling have not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set for the pilots.
BVA remains supportive of the use of badger culling as a necessary part of the comprehensive strategy for control and eradication of bovine TB. BVA is, therefore, calling on the government to revert to the method of cage trapping and shooting only, which can deliver a safe, humane and effective cull, as demonstrated in the earlier Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).
The RBCT established that culling badgers can deliver a net benefit in terms of a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. BVA is therefore now calling for badger culling to be rolled out using cage trapping and shooting only to other areas where badgers contribute to the high incidence of TB in cattle.
BVA Council heard views from BVA’s Veterinary Policy Group and Ethics and Welfare Group, which have discussed data from the first two years of the pilot in detail, as well as opinions from BVA’s expert specialist divisions, including the British Cattle Veterinary Association and British Veterinary Zoological Society, and from individual BVA members across the UK.
There was widespread agreement amongst Council that the disproportionate focus on badger culling in the public debate about bovine TB fails to acknowledge that no single measure can effectively tackle the disease. There must be a comprehensive eradication strategy using all available measures, including surveillance and control in cattle, biosecurity, badger culling and vaccination, surveillance and control in other non-bovines (eg camelids), and research and development (including into improved diagnostics, cattle vaccine, oral badger vaccine, and alternative humane badger control methodologies).
Commenting, BVA President John Blackwell, said:
"BVA’s support for badger culling as part of the bovine TB eradication strategy has always been predicated on it being delivered humanely, effectively and safely. BVA supported the pilots to test the use of controlled shooting but data from the first two years of culling has not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set.
“However, BVA remains convinced that if we are to tackle this disease then we need to control the infection in the wildlife population, and badger culling must form part of the comprehensive strategy for tackling bovine TB. We are therefore calling for the culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to be completed using the tried and tested method of cage trapping and shooting, and for culling to be rolled out to other carefully selected areas using this method.
“The continuing spread of bovine TB within cattle and wildlife has an unacceptable impact on animal health and welfare and has the potential to pose a risk to public health. In the public debate on badger culling and bovine TB, we are in danger of losing sight of the many other important control measures being applied. It is essential that the next government commits to a comprehensive strategy that employs all available measures.”
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