Irish badger culling fails to halt bovine TB spread, says Badger Trust

A joint report by the Badger Trust and Badgerwatch Ireland has condemned the Republic of Ireland’s culling policy saying the “6000 snares set every night” are failing to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis. 

Published on Monday (14 May) the report urges consumers to boycott Irish dairy and beef products and to shun Ireland as a holiday destination.  In so doing it hopes to pressure the Irish government in to revising its strategy on tackling TB.

The report says that despite employing a comprehensive cull against wildlife 0.4% of the Republic of Irelands cattle population was slaughtered in 2006 due to TB, compared to 0.2% in Great Britain where culling is prohibited.

As a result of the culling the report says badgers are locally extinct in many areas, although there is no hard data to support this claim.

The authors also criticise the Irish government for ignoring advice to resume pre-movement testing which it abandoned in 1996.  “Pre-movement TB testing for cattle has been recommended by both Veterinary Ireland and the EU, but the advice has been ignored by Irish agriculture ministers.”

Trevor Lawson, report author and Badger Trust public affairs adviser, commented:  “The official persecution of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an international disgrace and must surely breach the Berne Convention, which protects badgers in Europe.  

“The grotesque extent of this extermination proves that killing badgers does not control or eradicate bovine TB in cattle.  Badgers are a scapegoat for bad farming practices and an inadequate bovine TB testing regime.  Our findings make a mockery of the demands for badger culling made in Britain by the National Farmers Union and other organisations.”

Bernie Barratt, from Badgerwatch Ireland, commented:  “I am currently looking after two badger cubs whose mother has almost certainly been snared or shot.  Many other cubs have starved to death because the government insists on killing badgers when mothers have cubs below ground.  The extermination of badgers in Ireland is now so extensive, that I have no idea whether it will ever be safe to release these cubs into the wild.

“I am very proud of Ireland’s many achievements, but this senseless slaughter is a horrible stain on my country’s character.  We have no choice but to bring this to the attention of international consumers, since our politicians lack the moral courage to protect our native wildlife.”

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “This is a highly misleading report which twists some facts and ignores many others. 

“TB has always been a much bigger problem in Ireland than it is in the UK. But the partnership approach adopted by the Irish Government in working with the farming community has achieved a very significant reduction in the incidence of TB, and in the long run that will be good news for badgers as well as for cattle and farmers.

“In Great Britain, by contrast, the number of new TB outbreaks increased by 11 per cent in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2006. We ought to be learning from the Irish experience, not misrepresenting it.

“Across the EU, 25 out of 27 EU member states (UK and Eire being the exceptions) have virtually eradicated bTB by using the same cattle control measures as us and despite having similar farming practices. It is only when cattle have to live alongside bTB infected wildlife (in the UK and Eire this is the badger) that the disease persists.

“This is only the latest example of the Badger Trust’s state of denial over the role that badgers play in transmitting TB to cattle and other wildlife, and it is doing their credibility no good at all.

“They would be serving the cause of the badger much more effectively if they faced up to the facts of the matter and worked with the Government, the veterinary profession and farmers towards achieving a healthy badger population rather than pretending that the problem doesn’t exist and perpetuating a situation in which thousands of sick and diseased badgers are dying slow and painful deaths each year.”