Despite huge protests from animal rights activists and animal lovers alike, the cull of up to 5,000 badgers has already begun in the counties of Somerset, and Gloucester, England, in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Both farmers, and the government have claimed that the disease is being spread by badgers, with 37,000 cows slaughtered in 2012 due to the illness, and public funding in the amount of £100m being the source of compensation to the farmers.
There is public outrage, however, as this current badger slaughter is not being undertaken in a bid to rid bTB, but as a test as to whether such a cull is ‘humane’ and ‘effective’, with results being the deciding factor in performing a widespread cull in the future.
The Humane Society, and the RSPCA are just some of the organisations against this plan. Brian May, ex-Queen guitarist and musician, has joined forces with animal welfare charities to fight against the cull, which they state is “inhumane”, and could actually prove to increase the outbreaks of bTB rather then lessen it. It is thought that the disease could spread further afield as badgers attempt to relocate from the areas of the current cull.
Celebrity Ricky Gervais has also joined in the fight to stop further culls on badgers.
Environment secretary, Owen Paterson (who ironically once kept two badgers as pets) has claimed that a vaccine for badgers carrying the disease “cannot be a solution alone”.
The question is, will such a cull even work? A previous 10 year-long trial by scientist John Krebs showed the results to be ineffective. The Isle of Man has no badgers, yet there are still cases of bTB. Just as in Northern Ireland, where no cull has occurred, but outbreaks of bTB have decreased dramatically, and in Southern Ireland, a cull took place, but occurrences of bTB increased.
Some people are questioning whether the government’s blood thirsty actions will mean the demise of badger populations, adding them to the increasing list of endangered animals, while others are concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the cull. Prof Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London calculated that a cull would be considerably more expensive than a vaccine, with other analysis showing that this slaughter could prove to be detrimental to British taxpayers, and the economy.
For more information about badgers, and this current cull in England, please visit the following links: