Memorandum submitted by Dr Elaine King,
National Federation of Badger Groups (J13) (continued)
200. The NFBG would urge the Agriculture
Committee to press the Government and the ISG on how it can account
for this problem.
201. Absent external auditing
202. The first report of the Independent
Scientific Group, published in July 1998, recommended that an
external audit be conducted to check the efficiency of the culling
(Bourne et al, 1998).
203. Despite this recommendation, it is
regrettable that MAFF failed to appoint external auditors before
the trial began on 2 December 1998. Cresswell Associates were
appointed to conduct the external audit in November 1998 but did
not start fieldwork until some months later.
204. The Government has stated that the
auditors will ". . . check that our procedures for surveying,
trapping and culling are effective." The Government further
states, "They will produce a report on the trial which will
be published". (MAFF, 2000a.) However, a report has still
not been published, almost two years after the auditors started
205. It is important that the report is
published because external auditors, who have specialist knowledge
of badgers, are crucial in ensuring the trial is scientifically
robust. This has been acknowledged by Professor Bourne, who has
admitted to the NFBG that the internal audit has "imperfections"
because few MAFF officers have a detailed knowledge of badger
ecology and an ability to interpret field signs.
206. Before the trial started, the NFBG
urged the Government to also appoint an external auditor to monitor
animal welfare. The Government refused to do this and welfare
is not part of the Cresswell Associates' remit (see late section
on animal welfare).
207. Culling inefficiency
208. Whilst the NFBG opposes the initial
intent of the trialnamely, to eradicate every badger in
proactive trial areaswe are equally concerned, from a scientific
point of view, at the Government's failure to eliminate all the
badgers in the proactive trial areas. We believe that, as long
as large numbers of badgers remain, the trial will never be able
to distinguish between the alleged role of badgers in causing
bovine TB in cattle and the role of other factors. Indeed, the
NFBG has been reliably informed that there is still significant
badger activity in proactive areas of the trial.
209. We believe that the trial is fundamentally
flawed because badgers can never be culled in order to produce
sound statistical conclusions in the trial. It is our contention
that this is why it is imperative that MAFF puts greater effort
into other scientifically robust assessments of TB solutions which
can be controlled. For example, it would be more sensible to examine
alternative husbandry solutions in the trial areas. We are very
concerned that solutions like these cannot be tested because the
proactive badger culling trial utilises all the major TB hot spots
where a statistically significant change in TB outbreaks could
be most readily detected.
210. Absent badger population estimates
211. There is still no validated method
for assessing badger densities, despite the ISG and the Government
stressing that information on badger numbers is critical in answering
many questions in the trial.
212. For example, the ISG states that the
trial will ". . . study the distribution of TB in badger
populations, and how this is affected by variables such as population
density, social group size and structure, disposition of badger
territories, and past badger removal operations". (Bourne
et al, 2000.)
213. However, badger populations and badger
densities cannot be estimated, neither can social group size.
Social group structure can also not be investigated. Indeed, the
Government has admitted that this is not possible. For example,
MAFF wrote to a member of the public admitting that, "without
any validated technique to measure badger populations, any estimate
must, therefore, be considered only that. Only when the trial
has ended will we know for certain how many badgers have been
removed". (MAFF, 2000d.)
214. We will indeed know the number of badgers
killed at the end of the trial. But the critical point is that
we will never know the proportion of badgers which were killed
by MAFF and the proportion left behind.
215. The NFBG welcomes the fact that two
separate research groups are currently developing an accurate
method to estimate badger densities, but regrets that the results
will be available too late to be of use in the trial.
216. The Government has still not explained
how it will deal with this vital lack of information.
217. Poor delineation of badger territory
218. A further practical problem, which
will undermine the scientific validity of the trial, is that the
territory boundaries of badger social groups are difficult to
define. The demarcation of territory boundaries is critical, not
only for identifying boundaries of the trial areas, and boundaries
for culling social groups in the "reactive" areas, but
also in examining the epidemiology of the disease in badger populations.
219. The ISG states that the trial will
need to record badger territories and recommends that boundaries
of badger territories are established using the "Dirichlet
tessellations" method backed by field signs (Bourne et
al, 1998). However, scientists have concluded that the Dirichlet
tessellation method is unlikely to be an accurate method for predicting
social group boundaries in areas where badger populations have
been previously disturbed by MAFF culling operations. (Delahay
et al, 2000.) The majority of the 10 triplets in the trials
have already been subject to MAFF badger removal operations since
the early 1970s and therefore the Dirichlet tessellation method
may be of limited accuracy in the trial.
220. Furthermore, the method makes various
assumptions which do not always hold true in reality. It assumes
that each social group has only one main sett, that neighbouring
territories are contiguous, that the boundary of neighbouring
social groups is positioned mid-way between each main sett and
that territory configurations approximate to polygons. The Dirichlet
tessellation method also assumes that territory boundaries do
not change between years.
221. The alternative territory identification
technique is bait-markingin which boundaries are identified
by feeding different social groups different coloured beads which
are then located in boundary latrines. It is labour-intensive
and time consuming but more accurate.
222. The Government has not explained how
it will estimate accurately badger social group territories in
223. Severe delays in implementation
224. The Government has demonstrated gross
incompetence in organising the trial and coping with the workload.
The Krebs Report recommended that the trial started in spring
1998. However, survey work has been delayed further and further
due to delays in surveying and delays with other areas of the
225. The Government admitted to having problems,
largely through "difficult terrain" as early as November
1998, "By mid-October it had become clear that progress .
. . was slower than had been hoped. It was considered that it
might not be possible to complete culling in both proactive areas
by the end of January". (MAFF, 1998.)
226. Poor organisation of trial
227. In addition to poor communication with
the police and landowners, the NFBG has learned that the Government
is jeopardising other research projects.
228. On 17 October 2000, MAFF arrived at
a farm in Staffordshire to site traps in the proactive area of
the Staffordshire/Derbyshire triplet. However, this area had,
for the past three months, been part of a research project co-ordinated
by Oxford University, to investigate bovine TB in wildlife other
than badgers, outside the trial. MAFF did not inform the researchers
of their plans to conduct proactive culling in the area, despite
having been notified previously that the researchers were working
in that area.
229. The result of MAFF's lack of communication
is that the researchers' work is now invalid, as they have had
to leave the area and find a new location to carry out the project.
The NFBG has been informed that MAFF's incompetence in this case
has resulted in the wasting of £45,000.
230. The researchers had asked MAFF for
maps of the trial areas, to ensure that overlapping areas were
not chosen. However, MAFF refused to provide the necessary information.
231. No Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
232. The NFBG believes that the Government
has manifestly failed to give due consideration to the wider environmental
impacts of the trial. The Krebs Report, the Report of the ISG
and the Government's nature conservation advisors have recommended
that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted to
assess the effects on other flora and fauna of removing such large
numbers of badgers across such wide areas.
233. The trial began without an EIA being
conducted first and with no methodology in place to assess the
impacts of badger removal as the work proceeds. We understand
that MAFF is now funding a study to assess the impact on other
wildlife of removing badgers. However, the study is being conducted
in tandem with the trial and the results will be known only after
thousands of badgers have been killed.
234. It remains the case that the Council
of the Countryside Council for Wales has refused to support the
cull in the absence of this and other information.
235. Doubts about the statistical analysis
236. The NFBG has for some time expressed
serious concern over the ISG's persistent failure to explain how
it will ensure that the results of trial are statistically valid.
These concerns were echoed by the Agriculture Committee in its
report, in which it made a number of key recommendations (HMSO,
237. The ISG and the Government have manifestly
failed to comply with all but one of these recommendations.
238. The Committee urged the ISG to satisfy
itself, and hence interested observers that, the trial can be
completed within a reasonable timescale and that the results will
be statistically sound. The ISG has admitted that timetables are
slipping but has not explained how this will be resolved. The
ISG has still repeatedly failed to provide specific details on
how data will be analysed to ensure the results are meaningful.
239. The Committee also recommended that
the ISG undertakes regular, preferably quarterly, power analyses,
which should be verified independently by an expert, and to keep
the Minister informed of the relative strengths and weaknesses
of the trial. It also recommended that the original data behind
the power analysis conducted by Dr Donnelly from the Bourne Group,
from which she concluded that the trial required 10 triplets and
should take five years, be verified by an external expert and
the results of this check be made publicly available.
240. The ISG has not conducted regular power
analyses and an external expert has not examined the data behind
the power analyses, Indeed, MAFF confirmed to the NFBG that an
external expert was appointed as late as 22 August 2000. (MAFF,
241. The NFBG is extremely concerned that
Ministers are unaware of the significant failings and weaknesses
in the trial.
242. Over-estimation of the power of the trial
243. The NFBG is also aware that a scientist
has recently raised serious concerns over the design of the trial
and its statistical robustness (Matthews, 2000). Matthews points
out that the trial has only a 50 to 60 per cent chance of detecting
a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in bovine TB incidents in cattle.
We are alarmed to discover that the power of the trial appears
to have been greatly overestimated. The fault appears to lie in
a number of areas. However, the key problem appears to be MAFF's
inability to trap and kill all the badgers in proactive and reactive
areas and its failure to secure 100 per cent access to land in
the trial areas.
244. The public might assume that the NFBG
would be delighted that so many badgers appear to be avoiding
capture. However, we are concerned that the Government's inept
delivery of the trial will lead to it being extended for many
more years than first anticipated.
245. If Dr Matthews is correct, two possible
outcomes might be considered. In one, the trial fails to detect
a 20 per cent reduction in bovine TB, because the power of the
trial is too low. The farming lobby could then claim that the
trial is a statistical failure and call for the immediate resumption
of intensive badger culling. Under these circumstances the Government
is likely to cover its own failings and comply with these demands.
246. The alternative outcome is that the
Government admits, several years from now, that the statistics
are indeed fundamentally flawed. With no alternative strategy
to fall back on, the Government has no choice but to continue
the trial for as long as it takes to acquire sufficient data to
be certain that a drop in cattle TB has, or should have been,
247. The third and less likely outcome,
is where the trial, through luck rather than scientific judgement,
does detect a drop in cattle TB.
248. Whatever the outcome, it is bad news
for badgers and for farmers who have placed their faith in a Ministry
which is incompetent.
249. We urge the Agriculture Committee to
bring all the pressure it can to bear on the Government to review
urgently the statistical power and the data gathered in the trial
so far, to determine whether the trial is remotely realistic.
250. In the light of the BSE inquiry, we
also urge the Committee to ask the Government to make available
the data requested by Dr Matthews so that she and others may examine
the statistical validity of the trial in an open and transparent
251. We regret that the Ministry cannot
be trusted to review its own performance alone. This is illustrated
only too clearly in the independent audit of the humaneness of
the culling trial. In that audit, the Ministry ensured that focus
centred on the more humane aspect of the trialthe shooting
itselfwhile failing to ask the auditor to investigate those
areas where the suffering of animals was most likely to arise.
252. Poor animal welfare
253. The NFBG believes that the Government
continues to place the practical considerations of the trial above
animal welfare considerations. There are still many aspects of
the trial which compromise the welfare of badgers and other animals.
254. Illegal killing of badgers
255. Evidence for the illegal killing of
badgers has been discussed in earlier sections of this report.
In addition to weakening the scientific validity of the trial,
the illegal killing of badgers is a serious threat to badger welfare
and the NFBG believes the Government is taking insufficient action
to prevent it. The walkover survey of only 10 per cent of setts
in "survey only" areas of the trial, is clearly designed
only to detect interference which may compromise the statistical
analysis of the trial. It is not being conducted with a view to
ensuring the welfare of badgers in all trial areas.
256. Starving badger cubs
257. One of the NFBG's major concerns about
the culling trial has been the welfare of badger cubs whose mothers
are killed. The NFBG has repeatedly urged Ministers that if they
insist on carrying out the trial they must impose a closed season
of at least six months (December to May) on the trial, to cover
the breeding season.
258. Regrettably, the Government ignored
our concerns and accepted the three months closed season (February
to April) recommended by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG).
259. The Government's decision contradicts
its own nature conservation advisors. English Nature in England
observe a closed season of seven months, from the end of November
to the end of June, when licensing building work which may damage
or destroy a sett or disturb the resident badgers. This is expressly
to avoid the risk of licensed activities involving cruel ill-treatment,
which is prohibited by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and
cannot be licensed.
260. The NFBG has repeatedly asked the Government
and the ISG why the closed season is so short. They both refused
to answer. A series of Parliamentary questions finally forced
ministers to admit "culling would not be a practicable policy
option if that season lasted longer than three months." (Hansard,
2 November 1998). The decision was therefore due to MAFF needing
enough months of the year to kill badgersit was not based
on a concern for animal welfare.
261. The Agriculture Select Committee also
expressed concern over lactating sows in its report on the TB
issue (HMSO, 1999) and recommended that MAFF records the number
and age of cubs and lactating sows killed in the trial, to monitor
the effectiveness of the closed season.
262. No figures have been published on the
number and age of any cubs trapped and MAFF has been unable to
confirm whether these data have been recorded.
263. However, there is now evidence that
female badgers were indeed killed in the trial in 2000, leaving
dependent cubs. MAFF admits that 51 lactating sows were killed
in the Wiltshire trial area in May 2000 (MAFF 2000a). Furthermore,
in May 2000, badger workers and members of the public observed
young badger cubs wandering above ground in the daytime in the
Wiltshire trial area.
264. In addition, James Kirkwood, the welfare
auditor, observed a lactating sow badger trapped on 17 May 2000.
As a result, he recommended that, "The timing and duration
of the closed season should be kept under close review in the
light of data on the dates of capture of lactating sows. Audit
of the welfare of trapping procedures should include assessment
of the welfare impact on animals which may be dependent on those
trapped". (Kirkwood, 2000.)
265. The Government's culling trial is very
likely to have resulted in badger cubs starving to death. This
is cruel by any standards and is a criminal offence. There is
now proof that the closed season is inadequate and the Government
should ensure that this cruelty is not repeated next year.
266. Despite confirmation that animal welfare
is being seriously compromised in the trial, the Government is
taking no action other than to keep the timing and duration of
the closed season under review. But the Government should have
enough data now to conduct a review, unless it intends to kill
badgers through another breeding season in 2001, before it makes
267. More data exist for badgers killed
in other trial areas in May 2000 and in subsequent months, although
they have not been published. We urge the Agriculture Committee
to insist the Government publishes all data collected in 2000.
These data should be reviewed and the closed season extended,
before more lactating sows are killed, and before more cubs die,
when killing takes place in the 2001 badger breeding season.
268. Injury to badgers and other animals in
269. Non-target animals
270. Badger cage traps used by MAFF are known
to trap and injure, and even kill, non-target animals. In May
2000, a Parliamentary Question asked by Norman Baker MP, force
the Government to give details of the animals which have died
in traps or were so badly injured that they had to be killed by
MAFF field staff.
271. The Government stated in a Written
Answer "In trial operations to date 272 non-target animals
and birds have been captured, of which 226 were released uninjured".
(Hansard, 9 May 2000.) The 37 animals which died or had
to be killed, included pheasants, grey squirrels, rooks, jays
and a fox. Injuries included being caught in mesh bars of traps,
head injuries and damage to wings and legs. Since this date, more
non-target animals have been killed and/or injured in MAFF traps,
but not all data have been published by MAFF.
272. Similarly, the welfare auditor observes
a similar pattern of injuries and causes of death. These details
were noted despite the welfare auditor stating, "The welfare
of the trapping was outside the scope of this audit . . ."
273. It is fortunate indeed that the auditor
investigated the humaneness of the trapping procedure, despite
not being asked to do so. As the auditor pointed out, ".
. . being trapped is a greater welfare insult that the despatch
procedure. Trapping may cause fear, discomfort, frustration, injury
and stress over a period of several hours, whilst the dispatch
procedure renders animals immediately insensible . . .".
274. As a result of his observations, the
welfare auditor recommended that the capture of non-target animals
be regularly reviewed "with a view to seeking improvements
to design or operation of trapping systems where a need is indicated."
275. The Government has confirmed that it
is now recording these details and that it will review the records.
However, the NFBG believes this approach is wholly inadequate
and would urge the Agriculture Committee to insist that the existing
wide mesh cages (two x two inches) should cease to be used immediately
because they are inhumane.
276. The use of wide-mesh traps which are
non-discriminatory and which cause injuries to non-target species,
is also in breach of the Berne Convention, which prohibits methods
of trapping which does not discriminate against non-target species.
278. The Government has known for some years
that the design of badger cages used by MAFF to trap badgers cause
injury to badgers (and non-target species). Indeed, the Government
has even conducted its own research into this issue, but has never
published the results.
279. For example, in answer to a Parliamentary
Question on the number of badgers suffering injuries in badger
cage traps, the Minister replied, "One badger has died in
a Ministry set trap. Information on injuries sustained by trapped
badgers is not regularly recorded. However, studies conducted
by the Ministry's Wildlife Unit in 1990 and 1992 showed that about
one quarter of badgers caught in Ministry-set traps had abrasions
or other minor injuries". (Hansard, 31 March 1998.)
280. It is a disgrace that the Government
knew that cage traps injure badgers and yet specifically did not
ask the welfare auditor to investigate the humaneness of using
281. Fortunately, the welfare auditor did
make a note of injuries he observed, even though MAFF does not
routinely record this information. It was reported that four of
18 badgers had trap-related injuries, including hair-loss and
abrasions on forelimbs and snout.
282. In addition, the NFBG is extremely
concerned at evidence which has been submitted to us, which shows
old and extremely rusty traps being used in the trial. This will
result in an increased severity of injuries suffered by trapped
283. In view of the evidence already available,
the NFBG believes that the Government should cease immediately
to use the existing wide mesh cages (two x two inches), especially
those that are rusty. Instead, MAFF should use only cages of a
mesh size of two x one inches which are known to be more humane.
284. Studies have already shown that the
narrower mesh sized cages cause fewer and less significant injuries
to badgers, and trap and injure fewer non-target species. The
Government should not need an independent expert to inform it
of what it must have known for many years. After all, it has been
trapping badgers using the same cage traps since 1982, when gassing
285. The NFBG would respectfully ask the
Agriculture Committee to ask the Minister and the ISG to publish
all available data immediately. MAFF should also be urged to make
the necessary changes to trapping procedures and to trap design,
to improve animal welfare immediately.
286. MAFF sets rape alarms on traps
287. The NFBG has evidence of cruelty to
animals by MAFF staff. In May 2000, it was discovered that MAFF
field staff were attaching rape sirens to badger traps. It required
action by the NFBG and the police to compel the Government to
deal with this horrific cruelty.
288. The Wiltshire Police investigated the
incident and concluded that, as no badgers had actually been trapped
while the alarms were set, a prosecution could not be brought.
However, the fact remains that the traps were set, and if badgers
were trapped in cages next to a shrieking alarm, an offence of
cruel ill-treatment would have been committed under the Protection
of Badgers Act 1992.
289. A number of alarmed traps did contain
a pheasant. Causing unnecessary suffering to animals is also an
offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911.
290. Baroness Hayman, Minister of State
for Agriculture, investigated the incident and later admitted
to the NFBG that MAFF staff had set the alarms, without authorisation.
Badgers could have been trapped for hours with high pitched screaming
in their ears, yet the managers of this supposedly carefully supervised
operation had no idea that the rape alarms were being used.
291. Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
292. The NFBG is extremely concerned that
the badger culling trial is not licensed by the Home Office under
the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The Act requires
that any procedure causing "pain, suffering, distress or
lasting harm" should be licensed.
293. There is evidence that the trapping
procedure in the trial causes lasting harm (non-target animals
have been found dead in traps or injured so badly that they required
euthanasia). The NFBG also contends that the trapping procedure
causes pain, suffering and distress to both badgers and non-target
animals. Indeed, the welfare auditor stated in his report, "Trapping
may cause fear, discomfort, frustration, injury and stress over
a period of several hours . . .".
294. However, the trial raises much wider
issues about Home Office licences. The Act does not specify that
a licence is required to trap animals per se, despite evidence
that it is a procedure that can cause "pain, suffering, distress
or lasting harm" which normally requires a licence. It has
been suggested to the NFBG that such a requirement would result
in a massive increase in licences, and associated administration,
for the many individuals involved in mammal trapping. For example,
many conservationists monitoring small mammal populations in Britain
would require a licence, because trapping often results in the
death in traps of small mammals, due to cold or stress, such as
295. The result is that badgers and other
animals are being trapped, animal welfare is being severely compromised
and there is no legal monitoring procedure in place, through a
296. The NFBG believes that trapping of
animals in the trial should be licensed and would urge the Agriculture
Committee to seek expert legal advice on this matter.
297. An additional concern is that Schedule
I of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 sets out, for
the purposes of the Act, the standard methods of humane killing.
However, these methods apply only when animals are killed under
a Home Office licence in establishments specifically designated
under the Act. The result is that methods of killing are being
used for badgers in the trial, which would not be allowed in a
298. External welfare audit of the trial
299. Before killing started in the trial,
the NFBG urged the Government to appoint an independent welfare
auditor to monitor the trial. However, it was not until the BBC's
Natural History Unit secretly filmed MAFF killing teams shooting
badgers inhumanely, that the Government took steps to appoint
an external independent auditor to monitor welfare.