Trust raises concern over badger cull pilots

We recognise that dealing with bovine TB is a complex problem, with strongly held views on all sides. The Trust is uniquely placed in this issue with a strong interest in both farming and nature conservation. We have always been clear that we support an evidence-based approach to this important issue.

With this in mind, we have recently raised our concerns over the Government’s pilot badger culls taking place in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Patrick Begg, who leads on bovine TB at the Trust, explains why:

The Trust’s position on tackling bovine TB is clear: we are in favour of what will work to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.  

We know from previous studies that this means increasing and intensifying surveillance to pick up infection early, introducing tighter controls on risky cattle movements, and improving biosecurity in farms.

To complement these efforts and to deal with the reservoir of disease in wildlife, we also believe that vaccination – of both badgers and cattle – will play a significant role. That is why we are testing the practicalities of vaccination, at our own cost, on our Killerton Estate in Devon.

However, we are also aware that a mass vaccination of badgers with current vaccines may prove challenging to realise in practice; it would be expensive and may not deliver the required effect. 

Equally, we understand from both Professor John Krebs’ work and the subsequent analysis by Professor John Bourne, that a comprehensive badger cull could have a significant impact on the incidence of bovine TB – but only if a number of very stringent criteria were met, including intensity, longevity and geography.

We had hoped that the current pilot culls would produce credible evidence on the effectiveness of a humane cull.  Indeed, we will be judging the outcomes of the pilots against the criteria for success set out by Professor Bourne in his review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

However, we are worried by:

  • Uncertainties over, and changes in, the baseline badger population estimates. This dimension is fundamental if we are to understand whether the appropriate proportion of animals can be culled as per the criteria set following the RBCT;
  • The lengthening of the pilot culls, which is again at the heart of the RBCT criteria for success.  The RBCT quickly realised that  culling should be constrained to as short a window as possible due to the experience of their own reactive culling, in which extended and sequential culling was quickly seen to significantly increase damaging perturbation effects and led to more, not fewer, bTB breakdowns in nearby herds;
  • Changes to the culling methods being employed, where it is clear that free shooting by marksmen – the original preferred method and on which any financial argument was based – has been largely abandoned in favour of cage trapping and then dispatch; and
  • The apparently now active discussion of other culling methods for any wider roll out, such as gassing and snaring: both have strong experimental evidence bases calling into question whether they can be humane.

We’ve recently written to Defra asking for their assurance that they are committed to meeting the criteria set out by Professor Bourne and upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of these pilots.

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28 thoughts on “Trust raises concern over badger cull pilots

  1. As a long term member and supporter of the NT ( over 20 years) I have made it clear that my husband and I will very publicly tear up our NT membership if they support a cull on NT land. Whilst the above statement is helpful, I am still looking for an absolute condemnation of the Badger Cull on National Trust land, and a commitment to vaccination.

    • I am also a member of the NT and donate beyond the membership but if the NT supports culling on it’s land I too will be leaving the NT.

  2. why kill one animal for the profitable sake of another? this cull that is already underway has proven to be a waste of time, money and above all wild animals’ lives. not one badger has been tested for bTB plus many other dead badgers have been found shot at the sides of roads and thrown like rubbish into rivers etc. please don’t say you know nothing of this, i’d be very surprised if you didn’t keep up to date with the situation. as it stands, the number of badgers left in the 2 cull areas have been grossly over estimated in the first place and subsequent estimates have shown their numbers to be on the verge of a possible extinction. vaccination, in your opinion, is too expensive, well i for one would volunteer my time to help with a vaccination program, free of charge and so would countless 1000’s of members of the public.
    please stop killing the wildlife that belongs to the whole of britain, to your and my children and their children too. you have to power to initiate a countrywide vaccination program and make the farming community clean up their obvious infected mess…..

  3. DEFRA, Owen Praterson and the government have failed on ALL counts to deliver a scientifically sound, humane and timely cull of our badgers.
    The National Trust should now be distancing themselves as far as possible from this bloody, politically motivated farce.
    There comes a time when those who’s purpose it is to protect our countryside, stand tall and say enough is enough. The people of this country will back you all the way and when these blood lusting psychopaths are ousted in 2015 you will be once again free to watch over our natural resources without political interference.

  4. Pingback: Game over for badgers - Page 17 - Wild About Britain

  5. As a trust member I have been very concerned about your stance on this; with you stating that you would go with government advice, which you assumed would be correctly directed as a result of scientific evidence. As I have read all the available evidence and as a clinician, I am convinced that the current government policy will make matters worse for our farmers than it already is!
    I would feel obliged to cancel my trust membership in the event of culling being allowed on trust land.

      • I see that the result of the “members’ vote [sic]” is now in (I voted by proxy) and that members voted for badger vaccination but, regrettably, their majority was overturned by the undemocratic block vote of the unenlightened Chairman and Trustees. As a consequence the resolution on badger vaccination was defeated. Very sad.

        As a member of the National Trust for over 30 years I am increasingly concerned that it is becoming too obsessed with visitor numbers and making money, very often at the expense of our wildlife, conservation and tranquillity at its properties. The ruling council desperately needs more members who care about and understand wildlife and ecology – every year I read with despair the biographies of those standing for election.

  6. Pingback: Orchard wildlife in Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Tear up your NT membership and support Badger Trust. The one organisation with the gumption to stand up to P[r]atterson and ‘Deathra’

  8. As an NT member over many years, a scientist and an experienced and knowledgeable person on the matter of badgers, any stance by the NT other than to vaccinate would be unacceptable to me. Taking advice from DEFRA or the Governement ministers on this matter has been proved ludicrous

  9. As an ex member of the gov’t Consultative Panel (3 yrs), a professional wildlife biologist with a Phd in ecology, ex WWF contract employee on bTB, author of ‘The Fate of the Badger’ (Batsford 1986, yes 1986!), and founder chairman of the Cornish Badger Group BROCK, I agree with Maggie, and would furthermore urge to NT NOT to concentrate exclusively on the Badger as any kind of silver bullet to this problem in the livestock industry. It is simply misleading and calamitous.

  10. Whatever its reservations, this still leaves the National Trust in favour of causing near-extinction of a wild mammal that we have an international duty to protect under the Bern Convention, and this over a huge swathe of England. The ‘gain’ would be the possible saving of a few hundred cattle per year.

    To give this some figures, take the ISG (Bourne/Krebs) RBCT report that you refer to. DEFRA deduced from it that a minimum of 70% of the badger population needed to be culled to have any noticeable effect, and their maximum nos that they thought they could get away with and still not fall foul of Bern was about 85-90% of their original population estimates. Now think for a moment: would the National Trust be in favour of India slaughtering 90% of its Tigers? Or Tanzania 90% of its Elephants? Is the National Trust really so anti-conservation that it would sanction a similar wildlife slaughter on its own land?

    And to what benefit? Back to the ISG report: you are right that there would be a ‘significant’ effect, but fail to say that this means STATISTICALLY significant, ie probable. It does not mean that it would be a LARGE effect. The much-vaunted 16% of TB cases prevented has wide limits statistically, and could in fact be as low as 3%. For an annual cull of 40000 cattle, this could be as low as 1200 cattle saved, using the ISG data.

    If the farming industry would only get on top of biosecurity, as it is beginning to do now (following pressure from the EU to obey its regulations), it could save probably a majority of the 40000 per year – tens of thousands at least.

    So we have NT possibly sanctioning a near-extermination of a protected species for a very limited potential gain to farming? If this is allowed, the National Trust will have apparently lost its mind, and certainly lost its soul.

  11. I have cancelled my membership re: cull how do I & others claim years of membership fees back? As we don’t support killing of badgers.

  12. The National Trust would be very wise to listen to it’s members as we will soon march with our feet if you allow culling on NT land. You are there to look after our countryside NOT destroy it. This badger cull is nothing more than a politically motivated act of unnecessary cruelty to the poor badger who has been made a scapegoat for some very irresponsible farmers. You need to take advice from the leading experts in the field (Lord Krebbs being the most knowledgeable as he conducted the 10 year study) and Willdlife experts such as the Badger Trust and the various Wildlife Trusts around the country before you listen to the very flawed information which comes out of DEFRA.

  13. Vert worried now that aggressive unions like the NFU will overpower the good that was once the National Trust as a member will be watching developments closely I will not be supporting any organisation that supports such cruelty to animals.

  14. As others have said, I will not support National Trust if they allow the culling of badgers in any guise at all on their land. They should have the guts to take a stand against this terrible idea and instead take the lead in a vaccinating programme of badgers on their land. I would then be donating to help fund the programme rather than withdrawing my support!

  15. I left the NT a long time ago after they allowed the slaughter of stags on their land. It seems they care not one jot for the views of their members, nor of the science of the RBCT, nor of the huge public outcry over the current slaughter of badgers. Highly, highly suspicious.

  16. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.
    Given how important this issue was, I am disgusted that the Chairman used his own opinions to override the outcome.

    Also no one working at the properties was aware of the vote in the magazine and they weren’t prepared to point it out to visitors.

    Important issues in the magazine should be on view at properties and brought to the visitors attention.

    • Hi Veneda
      Members can instruct the chairman how to vote or leave him to vote on their behalf. His view is made clear in the members’ magazine and on-line. Therefore he voted as per the Board of Trustee’s recommendation outlined in the magazine.

      • The Chairman’s behaviour was disgraceful and completely lacking in any democratic principles – he should have divided the proxies on the basis of the votes cast by members. Jenkins has no moral compass.

      • Members can instruct the chairman how to vote or leave him to vote on their behalf. His view is made clear in the members’ magazine and on-line and he voted as per the board recommendation.

  17. The conclusion of krebs report was not that it will make a significant difference, it was that it would make no meaningful difference to cattle tb control hence why crabs himself is against a cull

  18. The National Trust seems to be remarkably ignorant on the latest scientific thinking on bovine TB and its causes – badgers have little if any effect. The national trust also seems to have lost any ethical foundations when it comes to killing our wildlife or indeed when ti comes to taking any notice of members’ views. Frankly, the NT leadership are a disgrace.

  19. Can only echo the comments already made and which are largely being ignored by National Trust and a Chairman who has in my opinion brought the National Trust into disrepute.
    National Trust can no longer claim to act in the best interest of wildlife and is making politically motivated decisions .
    As to members leaving that is exactly what your chairman and others who share his views want ,this enables them to further increase their – in my opinion – malign influence -over what was once a decent organisation .

  20. Pingback: Cattle transport, not badgers, really causes bovine tuberculosis | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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