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Reaction in Somerset as Government confirms badger cull begins
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- Badger cull expected to last six weeks
- Cull taking place in parts of West Somerset
- Second cull zone in Gloucestershire
- Opponents gathered for rally in Minehead on Monday
ADRIAN Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group, said: “I am dismayed that the government and the NFU are not telling the whole truth, which is a terrible shame.
“They are trying to justify their stance, but in avoiding telling the whole truth, they are proving that this cull might not be as effective as they claim.
“Around 250 people came out in Minehead last night, for a candle light procession organised as part of the ongoing Somerset Badger Patrols. It was extremely good. The vigil was totally law-abiding and peaceful.
“I try to impress on people that we have to be peaceful and also to make sure that any comments we make are supported by science.
“Vaccination is the key – it is probably the only option, and what we would like to see is Owen Paterson putting pressure on Europe so a vaccine can be developed in less than the ten years he says it will take. Farmers deserve that too, instead of the government remaining determined to kill badgers at any cost.”
SOME South-West landowners have called for the badger cull pilot scheme to be allowed to go ahead without interruption from individuals or groups who disagree with the policy.
John Mortimer, South-West director of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “These proposals have survived the democratic process, having been debated in Parliament and tested in the courts and must now be allowed to proceed.
“The companies and farmers engaged in the pilot control operations and the politicians who have been brave enough to tackle this issue have our unqualified support.
“These pilot schemes are a vital start to a programme to tackle and, eventually, eradicate bovine TB which is as debilitating a disease for wildlife as it is for cattle – yet the action to combat it has never been equivalent to the scale of the problem.
“The cost to the public purse will top a billion pounds over ten years but the cost in human terms, the misery and suffering caused to farming families, is immeasurable.
“Culling is only one part of a variety of measures that will have to be employed to beat this disease and bio-security, cattle movement controls and, eventually, vaccine will all have a part to play.
“But there is currently no deployable vaccine which can cure an infected badger and there are no vaccines licensed for use in cattle either to prevent or control bovine TB.
“The government and the industry have trod a rocky road to get to a point where licences have been issued to hold these trial culls and it is now incumbent upon the rest of our democratic society to allow them to be conducted in a proper and safe manner.
“Without this action being taken as a matter of urgency we may never catch up with this disease and could find ourselves instead in a situation where livestock farming is unsustainable in our part of the country.”
@DefraGovUK really? Please state badger population in west somerset - to recap, you ended last year saying 4K min now its between 2K and 3K— @mtalbot_uk 27 August 2013
THE Somerset Wildlife Trust has claimed that culling is a tragic distraction to tackling a devastating disease.
Chief executive, Simon Nash, said: “We are very conscious of the hardship that bTB causes our farming community. However, science clearly shows that a badger cull is not the solution to bTB and, in fact, the shooting of badgers could make the problem worse here in Somerset.
“This cull is a distraction and gets in the way of implementing the right mechanisms to control this disease through improved biosecurity and the roll out of cattle and badger vaccines – a view shared by many landowners here in Somerset.”
The Wildlife Trusts are urging Defra to prioritise badger vaccination programmes and the development of a cattle vaccine.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added: “It is a sad day for the natural world. We deeply regret that badger culls are proceeding despite the strength of scientific and public opinion against them. No Wildlife Trust will allow culling on its land.
“Anyone who feels duty bound to protest is urged to do so peacefully and respectfully, to the countryside and to the farming community.”
Somerset Wildlife Trust urges members of the public who come across dead badgers not to touch or remove them. Under no circumstances should people handle injured badgers – they can be very dangerous. If found, call Secret World on 01278-783250 or the RSPCA on 0300-1234999.
AN Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: “The policing operation has begun in response to the pilot badger cull in Somerset. We have been aware of the cull and planning for it for some time to make sure that our communities are safe, and feel safe, while it takes place.
“The cull is a private initiative being run by Natural England under a license from DEFRA. However, we are ready to respond to reports of criminality and public disorder and we will maintain public safety if we need to.
“This summer we have met with local people, businesses and other interested parties to reassure them we are prepared to manage any issues arising from the cull and we will continue to talk and reassure them in the coming weeks.
“Anyone who still has concerns can contact us at any time on the non-emergency number 101.
“We believe the cull will attract protest and anyone planning a protest should contact us to work together in facilitating a safe, peaceful and legal protest.
“While we will strive to facilitate peaceful protest, we will act robustly if anyone becomes involved in disorder or violence.
“Throughout the next few weeks the challenge we face is to balance the rights of the protestors with the rights of the wider community to carry on with their lives as normal.”
PROTESTERS have set up camp in and around the badger cull pilot zones in West Somerset and Gloucestershire.
This is the entrance to 'Camp Badger' near Watchet.
PHOTO: Steve Guscott
PAULINE Kidner, founder of an animal rescue centre near Highbridge, has been a vocal opponent to the cull since it was announced.
Responding to news of the start, she said: “It is with great sadness that Secret World Wildlife Rescue, one of the largest badger cub rearing units in the country has learnt that that badger cull has started in Somerset.
“This cull being held in an area with hardly any cattle is merely an experiment as shooting practice to see if badgers can be shot humane, effectively and efficiently.
“As a leading rescue centre Secret World knows from road traffic accidents that badgers will always make their way back to their setts if injured. This is why the humaneness can never be truly assessed as many injured will die underground.
“Even in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) when 11,000 badgers were killed in high incidence bovine TB areas, 80% were found to have no sign of the disease at all in post-mortems. Not a single badger from the pilot cull will be given a post-mortem so we will never know if any of them were infected.
She added: “As with all animals including ourselves, if we are feeling ill we stop moving around so those foraging naturally will be the healthy ones, the ones that will get shot.
“The 16% improvement looked for after nine years is being based on the RBCT and yet the methods are different so it could be that this pilot cull could actually produce a negative effect. Perhaps they have forgotten that TB increased for the first three years before any difference was noticed.
“I am totally against the cull despite being a dairy farmer in the past.
“This is a sad day for our countryside, our tourism and many farmers, who could well now get a TB outbreak in their herds due to the movement of the terrified badgers that are being shot at.”
A PETITION set up by Queen guitarist Brian May, who has been a high profile anti-cull campaigner, has be signed by almost 5,000 more people overnight, rising to more than 270,000.
Visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257 to find out more.
#theslaughterhasbegun I urge anyone against this cull to spare just £0.79 to download 'Badger Boys' this week. Let's do it for the badgers!— @Speak_4_Animals 27 August 2013
So the Badger Cull starts today! What person(s) in their right mind sanctioned this? Those poor defenceless creatures doing no harm! 😔— @DawnLoweActress 27 August 2013
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Owen Paterson said: “Bovine TB is an infectious disease that is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries.
“We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.
“That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.
“If we had a workable vaccine we would use it. A badger vaccine would have no effect on the high proportion of sick badgers in TB hotspots who would continue to spread the disease.
“We are working on new badger and cattle vaccines but they are years away from being ready and we cannot afford to wait while TB gets worse.”
WRITING on Twitter, wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham, who recently visited Secret World Wildlife Rescue centre in Somerset, said: “It is both sad and shameful that when night falls and the setts of southern England stir their gentle folk will be needlessly slaughtered.
“That in spite of science and public will, the wrath of ignorance will further bloody and bleed our countryside of its riches of life.
“That brutalist thugs, liars and frauds will destroy our wildlife and dishonour our nations reputation as conservationists and animal lovers.
“So I fear that tonight [August 26] could be the darkest for British wildlife that we have witnessed in our lives. I feel sick, sad, disempowered, betrayed, angry and crushed by the corruption of all that I know as right. I feel rage.”
NFU vice president Adam Quinney speaks to Matt Faulkner on BBC Somerset as the Badger cull begins.
IN a letter to members of the National Farmers’ Union announcing the start of the badger cull, NFU president Peter Kendall said: “This is an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry.
“I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with TB on farm – some of you for decades – and I hope now you will feel that something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers.
“We cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of TB while knowing the disease exists in wildlife uncontrolled.”
He added: “Badger control remains a controversial subject and we understand that some people will never agree with controlling badgers in this way.
“I am confident however that through the combined efforts of farmers, the NFU and government over the last year to illustrate the impact TB has on farms, and the scientific basis for badger control, more people than ever recognise the need to address the disease in badgers.
“I hope that when time shows that these culls have reduced TB in cattle – just as has happened in Ireland – that even more people will understand that while sad, these culls are absolutely necessary.
“I hope that you will continue to show support for those farmers who are facing the nightmare of TB on farm and especially for those who are in the culling areas.
“You can rest assured that the NFU is working hard to support its members and the companies concerned with the culls.”
Minehead candlelit vigil #stopthecull #slaughterhasbegun http://t.co/ZLpYHDB6Oo— @tribalscorpio 26 August 2013
So many people made the journey to Minehead tonight. People I have come to call my friends. WE WILL KEEP FIGHTING. http://t.co/7BVYgIQPew— @louisenobladder 27 August 2013
HUNDREDS of people held a vigil in Minehead town centre last night protesting against the start of the badger cull.
: Good showing at the candlelit vigil in Minehead for our poor badgers http://t.co/8p709FUK6j #theslaughterhasbegun— @Roaringgirl 26 August 2013
@hen4: Hundreds of us gathering under an old Lime tree in Minehead to mark the beginning of the #badgercull #peace http://t.co/lu0mfOoBN8— @WestEndWendy1 26 August 2013
AROUND 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks.
The Government says west Somerset has approximately 4,300 badgers, with west Gloucesteshire's population put at 3,600.
The aim is to kill 70% of the animals, with west Somerset being set a minimum target of 2,081 and a maximum of 2,162.
The culls, which will be carried out annually for four years, last six weeks.
THE controversial badger cull has begun in parts of West Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The Government announced the cull would take place in a bid to stop the spread of bovine TB.
But the policy has divided opinion, and more than 260,000 people have signed a petition against it.
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