Vets have given their formal backing to the pilot badger culls in England after Defra announced changes to the way the culling would be carried out and monitored.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) had previously withheld its support because it had concerns over the monitoring of the culls, which are due to begin in Somerset and Gloucestershire this summer.
The first year of culling was overseen by an independent expert panel (IEP). But Defra disbanded the panel after it concluded the culls had failed to meet targets on humaneness and effectiveness.
In June this year, BVA president Robin Hargreaves said the organisation was waiting to see what alternative plans Defra had to ensure the culling was independently monitored.
The organisation has now released a statement saying its concerns for the coming trials have been addressed by Defra.
The BVA statement said that Defra had moved considerably, confirming a number of changes to its plans including:
- Shotguns would not be used for controlled shooting
- Contractor selection, training and assessment would be enhanced
- The number of field observations of shooting and number of post-mortem examinations of badgers would be in line with that carried out in year one
- Real-time information would ensure a better distribution of effort and that poor-performing marksmen would be removed from the field.
“It is essential that Defra gets this right to allow the veterinary profession to have confidence that controlled shooting can be carried out humanely and effectively.”
Robin Hargreaves, BVA president
The statement added that Defra had also committed to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out during the cull.
“BVA is satisfied that the appointment of such an auditor addresses many of our original concerns,” the statement says.
BVA president Robin Hargreaves added: “BVA has always maintained that we could only support the use of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be humane, effective and safe.
“We supported the findings of the independent expert panel and called on Defra to implement the recommendations fully.”
And Mr Hargreaves welcomed Defra’s proposals to improve humaneness and effectiveness in light of the IEP report. “We have been pleased how far Defra has moved towards BVA’s position, in particular by ensuring a robust and independent audit is in place,” he said.
“It is essential that Defra gets this right to allow the veterinary profession to have confidence that controlled shooting can be carried out humanely and effectively.
“We continue to call upon the secretary of state to put in place independent analysis of the second year of culling to give confidence to the wider public.”