The Badger Trust has distanced itself from a new farmer organisation that is pushing for trials into the gassing of setts of badgers infected with bovine tuberculosis.

The newly formed Badger Welfare Association (BWA), founded by Somerset dairy farmer Derek Mead, claims it can identify setts where bovine TB is present so that the occupants could be gassed.

The association held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday (14 August) at Sedgemoor Market, near Bridgwater, which attracted more than 150 farmers. A second meeting is planned on Thursday (16 August) at Zeal Monachorum, near Crediton.

The BWA is campaigning for official recognition of the work of Okehampton entrepreneur farmer Bryan Hill. According to reports, Mr Hill claims to have acquired expertise in identifying which setts TB-infected badgers occupy and which are not.

The group then proposes to pump in suffocating carbon monoxide gas, a method rejected by DEFRA and which the Badger Trust strongly opposes on humane grounds.

In a statement, the Badger Trust distanced itself from the BWA, saying: “The presence of disease in a sett is not proof that the animals inside are infected, let alone whether they are among the very small proportion that are infectious enough to pass on the disease.”

The Trust described the BWA’s proposal as “reactive killing” which research proved did not work and could make matters worse by causing the disease to spread among neighbouring farms.

“If any gassing or other killing can be proved to have taken place already, Badger Trust will take every action possible to secure the conviction of those responsible.”
The Badger Trust

The Badger Trust, which is awaiting the result of its appeal against a government decision to allow the culling of badgers in pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire this autumn, warned farmers against the illegal gassing of badger setts.

“Unless this method is properly validated through the usual scientific review process including rigorous field trials licensed by Natural England, any application of it would be in clear breach of the Badger Protection Act of 1992, attracting fines of up to £5,000 and/or a six-month prison sentence per offence.

“Each badger gassed would be a separate offence. If any gassing or other killing can be proved to have taken place already, Badger Trust will take every action possible to secure the conviction of those responsible.

“In addition, a license from Natural England would be required to interfere with the badgers or their habitats.”

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