A round-up of the badger cull
Jennie Bailey looks at the current situation for England's badgers
It's been a game of two halves for badgers this week. The first trial cull period in Somerset has just ended. Although figures vary on how many badgers have been killed it is thought that over 850 badgers were slaughtered, just over 40% of an initial target of 2,081. That's way below the number required for the cull to be deemed a "success".
They Think It's All Over
As the government failed to reach the target, it should be “game over” for the cull. However, it could be going into extra time as Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson's commented “the badgers are moving the goalposts”.
Paterson argues that the low number of badgers destroyed during this time has been due to where the disease is concentrated, a slump in badger numbers and a lack of food available over last winter.
However, as The Independent point out, his claim that the badger population is much smaller than previously thought comes just a year after he postponed the badger cull by around nine months to this summer after finding badger numbers were higher than expected.
Those behind the cull are now applying to Natural England for extra time. The National Farmers' Union (NFU) who have supported the cull from the beginning welcome any time extension. Responding to a statement by DEFRA, NFU President, Peter Kendall stated: “[The NFU's] absolute focus, and that of everyone involved, is disease control. More than 38,000 cattle were slaughtered in Great Britain in 2012...These badger cull pilots are a very important first step...”
The Red Card
Wildlife NGOs, charities, and animal rights campaigners are still hoping to show the NFU and the culling company the red card.
The Labour Party was also quick to condemn the move for an extension of the cull, with new Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle saying the process was "entirely bad."
"Culling is not working, not effective and not based on any scientific evidence," she told the BBC. Any extension of the culling period could, in fact, increase the spread of TB as badgers were disturbed by the shooting, she said.
Campaigning groups also criticised the extensions and the new numbers, saying they were suspiciously convenient. The Badger Trust commenting that the culling trials are collapsing into chaos.
Sky News also recently revealed that badgers were being gassed, with a Somerset farmer admitting to carrying out this illegal practice.
A Free Kick
Ethical Consumer wants to kick out the cull, and urges consumers to consider where they're buying dairy products from. The badger-friendly milk list is a tool to empower consumers to vote with their wallets and tell their supermarket, and local dairy producers, to reconsider killing badgers.
As a bit of fun, see if you can 'get one past' the badgers in the current meme: Owen Paterson's Badger Penalty Shoot-out Game.
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