31 May 2002

Be cautious with badger cullings

WIDESPREAD badger culling can not be excused under the Badger Act 1992, warns Jan Rowe, chairman of the NFUs national animal health committee.

Despite a clause allowing producers to kill sick or injured badgers (News, May 24), Mr Rowe advises them not to take matters into their own hands if it can be avoided.

"It is essential that producers are certain that a badger is sick or injured before culling it," says Mr Rowe.

"Badgers are normally nocturnal creatures, those seen during the day are generally not well, but this is not always the case."

With the legal implications of killing healthy badgers, Mr Rowe is keen to point out that night time killing should be avoided if at all possible. "A badger that appears to be ill in the beam of a spotlight may be perfectly well when inspected after killing."

Badgers may also be culled if shown to be causing damage to land, crops, poultry or other property. But The Guide to Wildlife Law Enforcement in the United Kingdom states: "This defence can only be used in the case of an unforeseen emergency. For example, a badger found in a chicken house killing poultry could legitimately be shot if there was no other reasonable way of preventing the damage. Whenever necessary action can be foreseen a licence must be obtained from DEFRA." &#42