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Tony Juniper – The badger cull and Natural England

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Since becoming Chair of Natural England in April I have been repeatedly asked about our role in the culling of badgers to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

It has been put to me that because we are the government agency leading on the conservation of the natural environment we should not issue licences that permit large numbers of badgers to be killed. Some people say that because I had previously expressed reservations about the cull I should now oppose the policy in my new role.

Given my stated views, I was questioned on the badger cull by the Parliamentary Select Committees charged with scrutinising my suitability for the role of Natural England Chair before I was confirmed in post. I told the MPs that, should I become Chair, I would go into Natural England and look at our bTB-related work with an open mind. I said I would be led by the science and that my advice to Government would be based upon that.

Since then, I have gained a deeper understanding of Natural England’s work and the extent to which it sits within a wider Government policy decided upon by Ministers, rather than by our Board or Chief Executive. The approach adopted by Ministers seeks to control a disease that has caused massive economic damage and widespread social impacts among farming communities. It embraces culling, but also includes badger vaccination and improved biosecurity to minimise cattle-to-cattle infections.

Natural England has two roles in relation to the bTB policy: one is that of conservation adviser and the other is wildlife licensing authority for England.

Protected species such as badgers can be controlled in certain circumstances, including to prevent the spread of disease, so long as a relevant licence is obtained. This licensing work is certainly not undertaken lightly and those involved in the cull, including farmers and Natural England staff, take the welfare of badgers very seriously.

In its licensing role Natural England independently considers licence applications to cull or vaccinate badgers, whilst taking into account policy guidance from the Defra Secretary of State, ensuring that the licensed activity is justified in terms of delivering disease control benefits. We also carry out monitoring visits during the culls to check that contractors are complying with licence conditions and best practice guides on shooting and cage trapping. Since badger control began in 2013, licensed culling operations have been carried out in a total of 32 areas of England and more than 67,000 badgers have been killed. Culling has begun in a further 11 areas this year.

In Natural England’s other role of conservation adviser we helped to shape the bTB strategy as it was formulated. We advised government that measures should be taken to ensure that licensed culling would not be detrimental to the survival of the badger population. We also recommended that safeguards should be included to avoid badger control harming other protected species or habitats. Both steps were incorporated into the policy.

Although many people may not be aware of this, conservation is also a big part of our licensing work on the badger cull. Natural England carries out detailed assessments of possible impacts that licensed activity may have on protected wildlife sites, imposing conditions on the licences to ensure that no harm is caused. We have also commissioned the British Trust for Ornithology to investigate any evidence suggesting that culling operations may be indirectly affecting vulnerable ground-nesting birds.

Our licensing of badger control has been challenged several times in the High Court and Court of Appeal. To date, none of the challenges has been successful in revoking Natural England’s licences, underlining the rigorous, professional approach our staff take to authorising action and I would like to thank our licensing team for the great job they have done under considerable pressure.

With regard to Government’s bTB policy more broadly, the extent to which we can advise on its overall effectiveness is, however, more limited, both in terms of the expertise we have in our organisation, which is geared more toward conservation than animal disease issues, and in terms of our statutory remit as an adviser, which focuses on conservation of the natural environment.

In relation to the controversial and polarised question of the badger cull, Natural England must continue to discharge its statutory functions to the best of its abilities. I will ensure that it does so in a scientifically rigorous way, providing important scrutiny at all times. I will also ask that Natural England is involved with more intensive efforts to understand the potential for a future policy based on vaccination, rather than one so heavily focused on lethal control.

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  1. Comment by D R Holmes posted on

    Is there not a case for a regular review of “Protected Species”.?
    As a lifelong shooter, stalker, conservationist, I have seen the imbalance in various species caused by unregulated protection measures. There is a long list, but the badger leads. Maybe spare a thought for the poor hedgehog?

    • Replies to D R Holmes>

      Comment by Barbara Lloyd posted on

      You drop in reference to hedgehogs as a lever to back your argument. Do you have any scientific facts to back your implications?

      • Replies to Barbara Lloyd>

        Comment by Mike clements posted on

        I do.... After caring for a family of hedgehogs they were killed by a badger that invaded our garden and impossible to keep out.

      • Replies to Barbara Lloyd>

        Comment by Dave Barnes posted on

        I don't see a problem with that. So long as the list of "vermin" is also reviewed. As a real conservationist I see wanton destruction of our wildlife on the name of "fun". Spare a thought for the poor Rook/Jay/Collared Dove ............

    • Replies to D R Holmes>

      Comment by Ken Gilbert posted on

      Well said Sir. Theyre shutting their eyes and ears to the science. They're in the pockets of thr NFU

    • Replies to D R Holmes>

      Comment by N Miller posted on

      Implying that badger predation is the main reason for hedgehog decline whilst ignoring the effect of humans is highly disingenuous. I support many wildlife rescues that receive and treat hedgehogs as casualties and they unanimously agree that the overwhelming number are the victims of human activities. In fact an independent survey published in July this year listed hedgehogs as the third most killed mammal in roadkill incidents in the UK.

  2. Comment by marta Falco Ainley posted on

    We are now all aware that due to Global warming , our greatest threat, we now urgently need to stop eating meat and having cattle as a source of consumption. Hence , in great part, the growing veganism . Its now vital that farmers begin to do all they can to not add to the reasons for global warming. They need to grow more vegetables, edible plants, soya, nuts fruit and plant many many more trees.

    And there is the ongoing causes of the spread of bTB. Cattle movement, spreading manure and applying far too thickly., farmers at auctions take no precautions to not spread any bacteria .

    Badgers are a protected species and as such it is now just some horrible Conservative stick in the mud, stubborn attitude that wants this cruel , callous, incredibly expensive killing. It is also evident that this killing is not working.

  3. Comment by Roger Weeks posted on

    I strongly suspect an independent Tony Juniper was not the author of this document, but weep at the insincerity of its content. You are wiping out and endangering badgers as a once common species in an insane, cruel, unjustified act, completely disproportionate to any risk posed, at the behest of a politically corrupting pressure group, with disease control a minuscule component in their purpose. Meanwhile the needed remedial action within the cattle reservoir and the disease spread within the industry is ignored. Shame on you and your words of deceit. Evidence seems sadly lacking, available and new or otherwise.

  4. Comment by K Tan posted on

    Utterly disgusting. This approach is not led by science or evidence. This is a prime example of how the establishment co-opts its critics. Shameful.

  5. Comment by Mary Barton posted on

    The incidence of bovine TB has increased in areas where badgers have been culled. Defra's own adviser Professor Godfray said only last year that it would be cheaper and more effective to vaccinate badgers rather than kill them.
    This policy of culling badgers is NOT science based. I call for an immediate halt to the Cull and an independent Public

  6. Comment by Susannah Fanshawe posted on

    This is the cruel, wilful genocide of a native species, all to appease landowners, £armers, shooting estates etc., whilst pretending to 'combat BovineTB' which is spread cattle-to-cattle and via slurry.

    I couldn't be more disgusted with this government and its lackeys if I tried.

  7. Comment by Marc Biddle posted on

    Dear Mr. Juniper and colleagues. So saying above please point me to the evidence that scientifically and categorically shows that this cull is working across the board in reducing BTB to a degree that justifies the means.
    I cant find it anywhere.
    It is likely true that to be shown how and why something of this scale and cost is so effective may go some way to alleviating public concern.
    For some of the public the making available of this evidence may explain why NE has allected to increase the scope of licencing the cull year on year. Surely the evidence of it's effacy must be very strong an compelling as you have indicated above. So please point us to the yearly reports that show significant decline of BTB in cattle throughout the cull areas. Thank you.

  8. Comment by Maggie Baker posted on

    There is evidence that badgers suffer unnecessary cruelty as a result of the government policy onculling so how is it possible for the authorities to condone this when the option of vaccination of both badgers and cattle is available?

    • Replies to Maggie Baker>

      Comment by Sue Ebbens posted on

      I think you need to read more about vaccination.. it is not without problems and has not been proven 100% effective.
      Google the BMJ report ,
      on vaccination for tuberculosis

      • Replies to Sue Ebbens>

        Comment by Ken Gilbert posted on

        Rubbish. Please check the facts with Derbyshire Wild life who have an extensive vacation program

  9. Comment by Lisette De Pachua posted on

    Dear Mr Juniper,
    If this is the case and you are basing the continuance of the cull on scientific facts then why is it being rolled out when the scientific facts state it is :
    1.Not effective at reducing btb in cattle
    2. Btb has increased in cull areas
    3. It is incredibly inhumane
    4. Badgers only have 1.67% btb
    5. More effective measures have been sited
    6. Vaccination has worked

    Ask yourself this - what is the real reason behind the cull ?
    You will be backing the biggest wildlife crime in British history

  10. Comment by Ian Evans posted on

    With regards to your last point, you do have the opportunity to explore the efficacy of vaccination as a facet of the wider disease control programme. You can do this immediately by directly involving National Nature Reserves in badger vaccination programmes, especially those in "Edge Areas", where higher levels of disease resistance could potentially help contain or slow the spread of bTB.

  11. Comment by Jill Eisele posted on

    where are the comments, i dont believe you have none

  12. Comment by Rav posted on

    "We advised government that measures should be taken to ensure that licensed culling would not be detrimental to the survival of the badger population" - except in Cumbria where there are no min/max kills and complete eradication is the goal (despite the fact the bTB came from imported N. Irish cattle and not badgers).
    There is no ban on hunting hounds despite the recent Kimblewick debacle (99 hounds killed due to bTB) - not even advice to keep them off cattle fields/farms. Biosecurity is neither monitored or enforced, as can be seen by the utterly disgraceful conditions on many farms, not to mention farmers consistently breaking basic cattle movement restrictions and swapping tags of infected cattle.
    Monitoring of cull operators has ceased altogether (as confirmed by the recent recording of the operators meeting). Testing of killed badgers has shown a negligible level of TB. TB is increasing in cull areas and vets have recently publicised the level of cruelty involved in the cull - not one or two cases but widespread cruelty and prolonged agony by those getting their kicks from government sponsored animal abuse.
    Frankly, Mr Juniper, if indeed you wrote this idiotic statement, you are either playing the long game and hiding it well or you have become the problem. Every one of you involved in this disgraceful 'policy' are no better than those criminal badger baiters. Shame on you.

  13. Comment by Jim Barrington posted on

    There are some strange and unsubstantiated claims made in this list of comments. The facts are that badgers don't just carry bTB, but also suffer from it, taking up to a year to die and all the while spreading the disease further in the latter stages. Leaving infected badgers to die in this way is hardly good animal welfare. The badger is not an endangered species, numbers having risen considerably over the past few decades. They certainly are having an effect on other species, such as hedgehogs in some areas. The claims of 'cruel' shooting appear to apply to badgers, but not deer (up to 500,000 are shot every year in the UK) or foxes (shooting was argued by anti-hunting groups to be a more humane method of control than hunting with hounds). It can't be the case that badgers suffer from shooting but foxes don't. Vaccination may have a role in some areas, but its long-term effect is definitely not proven as one wildlife trust was honest enough to publicly admit recently. I suggest looking at the website of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management:

  14. Comment by Elizabeth Hillary posted on

    I agree with the comments calling for the evidence that the cull is working to reduce TB in cattle. This would go a long way to alleviate the concerns of the general public.

  15. Comment by Tracey posted on

    As a Beef farmer i live every day with the threat of bTb wiping out a herd thats taken me 11 years to build up.
    I personally believe that more pressure needs to be put on a cattle vaccine. It is neither the Badger nor the cows fault. I feel they are now infecting each other.
    I have no answers as to how we sort this mess out im afraid im just my area its not will i get bTb its WHEN will i get it.
    All the brains and money being spent surely we can do SOMETHING.

  16. Comment by Staffordshire Against The Cull posted on

    Government/NFU Badger Cull in Staffordshire - September 2019
    Media Statement

    Defra on behalf of the Conservative government has announced that it is to go ahead with its dreadful, cruel and inhumane policy of killing thousands of badgers for the second year running in Staffordshire. This is already happening in the county to the west of the M6 and now in East Staffordshire and will take place over several weeks.
    This means that the badger cull zone has now expanded considerably as part of a government roll out of a further 11 cull zones stretching from Cornwall to Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Cumbria. There will be two new cull zones in Staffordshire. The conservative government wants to kill 25,428 badgers in these new zones and 37,471 a total of 62,899 across all the zones. When adding the supplementary zones where 1,501 are licenced to be killed this brings the total to 64,400. At the conclusion of this year’s cull, nationally more than 120,000 badgers will have needlessly lost their lives since 2013.

    The cull, without doubt, has already started in the last few days in the Staffordshire cull zones. Peanut baiting locations and cage traps are being set up by farmers and landowners signed up to the badger cull.

    It is important to stress that Professor Lord John Krebbs, a former government advisor previously stated that Badger culling is "ineffective" in tackling TB in cattle. Krebbs was instrumental in undertaking the UK's biggest scientific review in the 1990s of the links between badgers and tuberculosis in cattle. The review found that badgers were a "reservoir" of Bovine TB but the results from trial culls showed that culling badgers was not an effective policy and would be a mistake if culling took place. The Krebbs trial killed 3000 badgers.

    In November 2019 the Godfray Report commissioned by the government was highly critical of both the farming industry and government ministers. The report revealed that simple biosecurity measures to help prevent TB transmission were not being implemented and this together with 2 million movements of cattle each year and an ineffective cattle testing regime was "severely hampering disease control measures”. The government has not responded to this review and persist with their harmful policy.

    Staffordshire Against The Cull believes that Farmers and the farming industry as a whole must stop blaming badgers for TB in their herds. The badger is being scapegoated.

    The Conservative government claim that there is a need to cull badgers in order to lower incidents of bovine TB in cattle. The flaw in government and NFU logic is that both have consistently ignored scientific research which does not support the culling of badgers.

    The cost to the taxpayer by the end of this year’s cull (taking into account that the cull began in 2013) will exceed £60m. Whilst this is the case It is important to note that the government has provided no evidence to prove this mass slaughter of badgers is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB.
    It was announced this week that Bovine tuberculosis rates in one of England’s main badger cull areas shot up by 130 percent last year and are higher than when culls began. The cull here has been taken place every year since 2013.

    It was also reported that Professor Ranald Munro, vet and former advisor to the government has written to Natural England to say that the policy is causing "huge suffering" to badgers; that the culls are not reducing TB in cattle. He reported that so far up to 9,000 badgers are likely to have suffered "immense pain" during the culls.

    Up until recently, there was no official word from Defra, no published licenses, no consultations... Then the paper Farmers Weekly announces the culls are going ahead. Is that now a new branch of Defra? Additionally, the country is now faced with government-imposed prorogation which means that Defra is not even replying to parliamentary questions.

    The government's culling policy ignores the science and runs against the opinion of the majority of senior scientific experts who criticise badger culling as inhumane, cruel, unnecessary and ineffective. It is a national disgrace and the majority of the public nationally and in Staffordshire do not support the mass slaughter and killing of badgers.
    In Derbyshire as a result of pressure from local people, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and badger vaccinators the government has decided not to issue licenses to cull badgers in that county.

    There is no reliable evidence to prove that badgers spread the disease to cattle. Staffordshire Against The Cull and indeed the Badger Trust believe that cattle are the main transmitters for bovine TB and that the only way to significantly lower the disease on farms in Staffordshire and elsewhere is through stringent cattle-based measures, rolling out of badger vaccination and biosecurity. In any event, it makes sense to promote badger vaccination as a priority option and important measure to help reduce b bovine TB in cattle.

    Over six weeks many badgers in Staffordshire will be caught in traps then shot or lured into fields away from setts with peanuts and shot. Many badgers lured into fields and the shot will take more than five minutes to die of multiple wounds, blood loss and organ failure, which has been condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association. Make no doubt about it the suffering that badgers will endure in Staffordshire during the cull will be horrific.

    Staffordshire Against The Cull is clear in their view that there is no humane way to kill badgers and that the killing of badgers should not take place anywhere in the county or beyond.
    The government-sanctioned badger cull will make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control and we continue to be concerned that those involved in the mass killing of badgers in the county will bring about localised extinction of the badger in Staffordshire if the cull is not stopped. Tragically, many badgers will be lost to this devastating act of aggression against this protected and iconic mammal species. This must be opposed.

    We believe DEFRA, doing the bidding of the National Farmers Union (the main instigator and driver of the cull), will aim to kill 95% of badgers in the Staffordshire cull/killing zone within 4 years. What this means is the effective elimination of one of our most charismatic mammals from a large area, adding to the problem of an already ecologically impoverished Staffordshire countryside. Today's children may never get the chance to see a local badger or marvel at their complex and amazing setts.

    The ecological impact is likely to be considerable and to include unknown impacts, which are unlikely to be studied or considered in detail given the remorseless and grisly momentum behind the rolling out of the cull in defiance of all reasoned opposition and scientific research.

    Staffordshire Against the Cull are appalled in regard to the planned widespread killing of badgers and strongly condemn and oppose this abhorrent government and NFU led policy.

    Staffordshire Against The Cull and the majority of the public in Staffordshire are against the cull and support the need to protect Badgers. This is also the case in Cheshire, Shropshire and in all areas of the country where culls are happening. None of us want badgers to be killed, maimed or injured in Staffordshire and we will continue to speak up, speak out and speak very loudly against the cull. We will do all we can to protect badgers from the farmers gun and bullet.

    We thank those farmers who have chosen not to sign up to this year's cull and those who are participating in the badger vaccination programme. We hope that more farmers in the county will resist the badger cull and respect public and scientific opinion on this issue. Importantly we recognise that on the whole most people in Staffordshire are against the badger cull and are pro-vaccination of badgers.

    Finally, we ask those farmers intent on killing badgers in the county to consider the error of their ways and to put down their guns and bullets and refrain from mercilessly killing badgers. We ask that you to stop luring badgers into fields with peanuts and to put away your cage traps. In particular, we ask that you stop killing badgers on your land.
    Badgers have a right to life and to go about living their lives in peace and without risk of being killed.

    ~ Staffordshire Against The Cull

  17. Comment by N Miller posted on

    So now we have positive proof from DEFRA's own published data that bovine TB has in fact increased in the initial cull zones over the past five years. How can you sit there with a straight face and support this slaughter when it's not even working ?

  18. Comment by Holly Bowler posted on

    I'm disappointed to hear this and feel I need to state that I disagree vehemently with the cull on scientific and moral grounds, and agree with Lisette's points above. I also feel I should point out that there seems to me to be a gaping divide between Natural England and other nature conservation organisations, badger experts, other scientists and the general public in their stance and their 'science', and also there seems to be no dialogue between NE and these groups or anyone with opposing views. If NE continues to take on the role of licensing this cull, I highly suggest this dialogue be instigated in the form of a meeting/conference of NE and these groups and individuals to communicate and discuss the facts and the science. To not do so with this extensive roll-out of culling across England is only going to damage NE's reputation further, and in the end we are a 'public' body. Secondly, the two roles of Natural England you mention are diametrically opposed, and I feel strongly that licensing should not be within the remit of our non-departmental government body or anything the claims to be called 'Natural'.

  19. Comment by Gary Gilden posted on

    Strange what a large salary cheque can do . This blog is the biggest sell out ever. Mr juniper aka Judas iscariot you failed everyone who has supported you . If you can’t tell the truth then don’t tell us anything. Your credibility is gone.

  20. Comment by Dominic Woodfield posted on

    When Tony took the chair of NE, many in the conservation sector, including myself, breathed a sigh of mixed relief, hope and expectation. After years of the organisation being spearheaded by ex-house builders, accountants and landed individuals with undisguised commercial hunting connections, here at last was someone at the helm with proven expertise and credentials in nature conservation. I know from NE staff that morale within the organisation rose for the first time in many years. Initial soundings were good – Juniper appeared willing to stick his head above the parapet on matters such as Natural England’s decimation by cuts and the dire consequences this had for the exercise of even its most basic functions. Against that context, this statement contains acutely disappointing diversions into PR speak. Indeed one wonders whether Tony himself actually penned all of it, or whether large parts were written for him.

    One or two passages certainly sound like genuine Juniper. He says, for example, that since taking the chair “I have gained a deeper understanding of Natural England’s work and the extent to which it sits within wider Government policy decided upon by Ministers, rather than by our Board or Chief Executive”. This is a thinly coded message to critics that they are right to suspect that Natural England is not at liberty to question or resist dictation from Government. The first four letters of the acronym QUANGO might be better dispensed with. Those who have witnessed and lamented the decline in the vigour and interest with which it performs its regulatory function over the last decade will probably agree that ‘GO’ is a much more fitting acronym for the current organisation. Tony appears not to be refuting that charge, but rather to be saying “don’t blame me for what I’ve inherited”.

    However what is alarming is the degree to which alternative facts and selective amnesia pervade the comments made about what the statement calls the ‘conservation adviser’ part of Natural England’s role in licensing badger culling, and in the comments made about the legal challenges that NE has faced. This attempt to spin the facts does not read like Tony, but more like the modus operandi NE have adopted in the face of scrutiny over this issue, and were already adept at before his arrival.

    One particular passage is particularly audacious in its presentation of an alternative truth. Tony’s statement says “Although many people may not be aware of this, conservation is also a big part of our licensing work on the badger cull. Natural England carries out detailed assessments of possible impacts that licensed activity may have on protected wildlife sites, imposing conditions on the licences to ensure that no harm is caused. We have also commissioned the British Trust for Ornithology to investigate any evidence suggesting that culling operations may be indirectly affecting vulnerable ground-nesting birds. Our licensing of badger control has been challenged several times in the High Court and Court of Appeal. To date, none of the challenges has been successful in revoking Natural England’s licences, underlining the rigorous, professional approach our staff take to authorising action and I would like to thank our licensing team for the great job they have done under considerable pressure.”

    This is an extraordinary attempt to spin a crushingly embarrassing story for Natural England and one can’t help wondering whether Tony has allowed it to be attempted simply because he has been selectively briefed on the facts. The reality is that Natural England consistently failed to carry out the legally required assessments of the impact of badger culling on protected wildlife sites, prior to the legal challenges that are referred to being brought to bear on them. As a consequence, several years of badger culling affecting protected wildlife sites in Gloucestershire, Somerset and elsewhere went by without “conditions to ensure no harm is caused” being imposed to protect those sites. Once this was exposed through legal challenge, Natural England then dragged their feet at every turn rather than improve their assessments to make them legally compliant. This continued right through the courts. At one stage, a witness for Natural England claimed that bats roosting in SSSI caves could be disregarded from assessment because ‘gunshots are a low frequency noise’. The real story is that the “detailed assessments of possible impacts that licensed activity may have on protected wildlife sites” that Tony refers to are the product of a forced and painful genesis that can be tracked through the court papers and pleadings dating back to 2016. Indeed in every year since culling commenced in 2011, due and proper assessments of impact by NE have either been absent, or have been shown by the courts to be deficient in a number of respects. Natural England have only escaped sanction for this in the High Court by promising the judge that they will up their game each time. That is the reality of this story and it is extraordinarily brazen of Natural England to attempt to spin an alternative narrative.

    So I am sorry Tony, or whoever wrote that bit for you, but you cannot be allowed to try and disguise the truth that the agency charged with protecting our most precious wildlife sites has consistently failed to carry out the steps required of it to discharge this most fundamental of its responsibilities, and indeed has had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts to reach the position we are in today. To thank those responsible for their “rigorous, professional approach” is the ultimate irony and suggests either that you are unsighted on the facts, or (more worryingly) are already falling into line with the institutionalised pack that marches to the beat of the Defra drum.

  21. Comment by Cheryl Dyke posted on

    I will respond to Tony Juniper's statement above as;

    'this licensing role is certainly not undertaken lightly and those involved in the cull, including farmers and NE staff, take the welfare of badgers very seriously

    This is an absolute joke! i challenge Tony Juniper and any member of the Board of NE to spend a week out in the fields/farms to actually witness what is actually happening in the cull,rather than being brainwashed by the NFU & DEFRA. Badgers are being found still in cages way beyond the allowed time for shooting, i.e. 12.00 p.m.
    We have found shooters intoxicated on the job, bearing in mind that these individuals have access to very power guns.
    Badgers are not being taken away at the time of killing, but hidden in hedges for the shooters/cullers to come back the next day when they have the appropriate body bags.
    Shooters are driving towards badger protectors & vandalising vehicles.The farming fraternity have no regard for the welfare of badgers whatsoever! Why are NE not carrying out any audits to actually inspect what is happening? I could go on with evidence. ......,,

    Vaccinating companies should be set up the same as the culling companies to offer an alternative to culling immediately for 2020.

    Badgers are not responsible for the fall in hedgehogs, man has a lot to answer for. They are getting killed on the roads, by insect repellents and the like; gardens no longer hedgehog friendly.

    Now lets talk about the hunts! it has been proven that the hounds also get TB, but hey ho, they are allowed to run across the countryside spreading the disease, but wait, this still continues. and more badgers are killed!

    We are seeing large areas in Gloucestershire whereby badgers are now extinct. The supplementary culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset should be halted! TB has risen by 130% in Gloucestershire due to the culling.

    i would challenge Tony Juniper and board members to visit some farms also to see bio security measures and the like.

    i have left the best until last!!!

    Woodchester Scientific Park for badgers, set up in 1976;

    The shooters are allowed to cull right up to the doorstep of Woodchester Scientific Park, luring the badgers out of the scientific park. We have information, which has been documented and verified by the persons present that a particular shooter in that area is purposely shooting the badgers from Woodchester Park who are tagged and have radio transmitters on them. He is luring them out and returning the tags to the scientists at Woodchester Park! The shooter in question has admitted to a colleague that he is actually doing this night after night. He is being paid £200.00 per night to shoot as many Woodchester badgers as he can. He said that if we were prepared to pay him the £200.00 per night, he would stop shooting!This should be stopped immediately and a buffer zone put around Woodchester Park for the scientific badgers. These badgers are used to going into the cages so very easy targets again for the shooters. The person in question also said that he is killing the Woodchester badgers, not because of any TB issues, (no TB in that area), but because of the duck and pheasant shoots! i have tried to contact NE to pass on this information, but not heard back .

    Culling should cease immediately!!

  22. Comment by Mark C posted on

    Well said Mr Juniper. The Cull is working and working well after 4 years (in line with expectations). Badgers were protected not because of any shortage or threat to their overall existence, but to stop the barbaric practice of "Badger Baiting". Even when the protections were put into place those drafting the act were fully aware that it would cause problems in the long term. Whilst I do agree with some of the comments above it is strange to see the comments of people who clearly know nothing whatsoever about the problem and the long term solutions, but see badgers as a cute fluffy animal as portrayed by Walt Disney. I was amused with the vaccination comments. Does vaccinating an infected animal cure it? As there are no field tests that will show conclusively if a badger is infected or not (Field blood tests seem to have a high percentage of false negatives and false positives) So are the proponents of vaccination advising this in Green areas, IE no bTB, Edge areas Low risk or the areas proven to have infected badgers carrying and spreading bTB.
    Throughout the trials and cull the government has stated that culling is only part of the solution and that no one wants to be culling badgers forever, what are the long term plans for bTB Free UK?

  23. Comment by Tony Juniper posted on

    Thank you all for the comments. I completely understand how strongly people feel about the badger cull (and I should add that since taking up my role of Chair that I have felt this from both sides of the debate, not just those who are against it). I am seeking to listen to the many points being raised and to base our advice to Ministers (who are ultimately deciding the policy) on the best evidence available.

    With regards to evidence in relation to the efficacy of badger control, analysis on the effect in the first two cull areas over the first two years was published by Brunton et al. in 2017. This showed a 58% reduction in the disease in cattle in the Gloucestershire badger control area and a 21% reduction in Somerset after two years of badger control compared to un-culled areas. These findings are in line with expectations based on the scientific evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial on which Natural England’s licensing approach is designed. There will be other peer-reviewed material coming through as we go along and we will look at that as it, and other proper analysis, comes through.

    Natural England is at the heart of badger vaccination programmes through our licensing role. If these programmes identify a need to access National Nature Reserves then we would of course consider giving permission for this where appropriate. More broadly, I believe that it would be highly desirable to gain more evidence from the field on how best to take forward vaccination and am speaking with colleagues about how best to do that.

    On monitoring, Natural England demands strict controls and monitors the humaneness of the operations. Compliance monitoring is a necessary component of any licensing system to determine the level of adherence with licence conditions and best practice. All contractors attend Natural England approved training and refresher courses as part of the licence requirements.

    Natural England’s monitors also attend cull operations in the field assessing the competency of those involved and their adherence to the eleven criteria outlined in the Best Practice Guidance. We also investigate all reported breaches of licence conditions and take action where necessary. These assessments are published each year in our report to Defra and the Chief Veterinary Officer (