29 November 1999
Fresh controversy over badger cul
by Johann Tasker
THE controversy is set to be renewed over the legality of the governments experiment designed to whether culling badgers reduces tuberculosis in cattle.
Wildlife conservationists have restated their claims that ministers are misleading other European countries about the legality of the culling experiment.
The badger is protected under the Bern Convention, a voluntary agreement signed by Britain in 1979 which underpins much of Europes wildlife legislation.
Conservationists claim that the cull, which ministers will hope will tell them whether badgers transmit bovine TB to cattle, is in breach of the agreement.
The National Federation of Badger Groups will visit the conventions representatives in Strasbourg on Tuesday with new evidence on the matter.
Dr Elaine King, conservation officer for the NFBG, said that the badger cull breached the governments international obligations on wildlife protection.
More than 30 countries voted last year to call on the UK government to stop the badger cull and explore alternative strategies to combat bovine TB.
But the government disregarded the recommendation and the controversial culling experiment has continued throughout 1999.
“It is an absolute disgrace that our government is defying European opinion and continuing with this futile culling trial” said Dr King.
“The government is misleading the convention by making claims that cannot be substantiated and omitting vital information about the impact of the culling trial on local badger populations.”
Dr King said that MAFFs own figures showed as many as 99% of badgers would be killed in the trial areas covered by the cull.
The government claims that badgers will rapidly recolonise but Dr King said the animals would take at least eight years even to begin to repopulate.
“The UK government is the single biggest killer of UK badgers and is claiming that it is exempt from the law,” she said.
“How can the government possibly claim to be protecting wildlife when it can so easily set aside the protective legislation which ordinary people must observe?”