A host of celebrities have signed an open letter to DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman calling on the government to postpone the pilot badger cull in England while EU lawmakers consider its legality.
Signed by Brian May, Chris Packham, Joanna Lumley, Jilly Cooper, Bill Oddie and others, the letter calls on the government to delay the cull so the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention – the European convention of protecting wildlife and habitats – can consider a formal complaint from the Humane Society International/UK (HSI) in January.
The Bern’s bureau will meet on 17 September to consider evidence submitted by the HSI and the UK government – and it could refer the issue to its standing committee in November.
HSI UK believes if a badger cull takes place the UK would breach the Bern Convention on three main grounds: it lacks legitimate purpose, poses a significant threat to local badger populations and because alternative strategies for controlling TB in cattle and badgers have not been sufficiently explored.
Badgers are listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention and, as such, the government is committed to regulate their exploitation to keep populations “out of danger”.
However, the proposed cull will see up to 70% of local badger populations killed in order to take action against bovine TB.
Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of HSI UK, said “The Bern Convention clearly states that controlling badgers must not result in serious disturbance to their populations.
“HSI UK believes that randomly shooting these shy creatures at night with high velocity rifles must surely constitute a breach of that protection.
“As a signatory to Bern, it is only right and proper that the UK government delay the slaughter until the convention has considered the evidence.”
“Culling will only take place where it will help control this disease. The government will specify the maximum number of badgers that can be controlled in the area, and this will be monitored to ensure there is no local disappearance of them.”
Next week, the Badger Trust will challenge a judge’s to allow badger culling trials to take place in England. The hearing is due to take place at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, 11 September.
Two pilots culls were scheduled to begin in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset this summer.
But they will now be delayed until the autumn at the earliest pending the outcome of the court case.
The culls will test whether the controlled shooting of badgers is humane, effective and safe. If successful, they could lead to the creation of a further 10 cull areas in England in 2013.
Bovine TB vector
Badgers are considered to be one of the main vectors for bovine TB, which costs the taxpayer up to £100m a year.
A DEFRA spokesman said: “Nobody wants to cull badgers, but no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated this devastating disease which forced the slaughter of over 25,000 cattle last year, without tackling it in wildlife too.
“Culling will only take place where it will help control this disease. The government will specify the maximum number of badgers that can be controlled in the area, and this will be monitored to ensure there is no local disappearance of them. The UK takes its responsibilities under the Bern Convention very seriously and we are confident our plans are consistent with its requirements.”
Read more about the cull on our bovine TB page.Philip Case on G+