Memorandum submitted by Dr Elaine King,
National Federation of Badger Groups (J13) (continued)
300. The NFBG welcomed this measure and
has repeatedly urged the Government to publish the auditor's report.
The NFBG is now appalled to discover that the Government commissioned
an audit of the dispatch procedure but did not ask the auditor
to investigate the humaneness of the trapping procedure. This
is despite existing evidence that the trapping procedure can cause
welfare problems for badgers and other wildlife.
301. In addition, it is unacceptable for
the Government to keep various aspects of the trial "under
review" when there is sufficient evidence to justify making
302. The NFBG would urge the Agriculture
Committee to insist that measures are taken immediately to prevent
further welfare problemsa review is totally inadequate
under the circumstances.
303. Furthermore, MAFF has stated that "The
Ministry accepts that the recommendation on the timing and duration
of the closed season be kept under review and data on the numbers
of cubs and females caught will be monitored and submitted to
the ISG," (MAFF, 2000f.)
304. The NFBG would urge the Agriculture
Committee to insist that all data are published and available
for public scrutiny.
305. Further welfare concerns
306. The auditor's report raises additional
concerns, not discussed in earlier sections of this report, and
made numerous recommendations to improve animal welfare in the
307. In particular, the auditor noted that
22 per cent of badgers resumed breathing after being shot and
it was noted that field staff were not trained in how to proceed
if a badger started to recover. The auditor made several recommendations
to reduce the possibility of badgers resuming consciousness.
308. Some badgers required more than one
shot and the auditor expressed concern that the minimum time to
re-load a gun for the second shot was 20 seconds. It was recommended
that guns capable of delivering more than one shot should be used,
but MAFF has refused to comply with this recommendation. The auditor
also reported that one staff member commented that occasional
rounds lack the power to kill a large boar badger in a single
309. The auditor also noted that field staff
are not given specific training on the subject of humane despatch.
310. The NFBG would urge the Agriculture
Committee to refer to the many other concerns raised in the auditor's
report (Kirkwood, 2000).
311. The poor legal status of setts
312. The NFBG has repeatedly raised its
concerns that badger setts in the culling areas are being damaged
or completely destroyed in the belief that they are no longer
"active" because MAFF claims to have culled all the
badgers. However, many setts will still contain badgers and are
therefore still protected by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
It remains an offence to damage or destroy any such sett or cause
the death or injury of any resident badgers.
313. MAFF plainly has no understanding of,
or regard for, the Government's own legislation. In a report produced
by MAFF, it is stated that: "Badger removal from an area
will make the setts inactive and therefore no longer protected
by legislation" (Robertson, 1998). This statement is incorrect.
314. The number of incidents reported to
the NFBG is increasing and we are concerned that there is still
no formal advisory procedure for farmers, explaining to them that
setts remain protected. Indeed, we have received reports that
MAFF officials are advising farmers to destroy setts after trial
culling operations have taken place.
315. There is also no methodology in the
trial for recording that setts are left free from interference
after culling has taken place. The only measure MAFF has in place
to check for illegal interference of setts is to do walkover surveys
of 10 per cent of known setts in "survey only" areas
of the trial. This is wholly inadequate.
316. The Government, far from ensuring that
laws protecting badgers are observed, is encouraging the breaking
of the law by default.
317. Legal issues associated with the trial
318. Recent press statements from MAFF suggest
that MAFF staff are being harassed and trapping equipment is being
destroyed on a routine basis by animal rights activists.
319. The NFBG does not condone any form
of illegal activity. All NFBG campaigns and protests have been
peaceful and legal, and organised in close co-operation with the
police and landowners, No complaints have been received. We regret
the Ministers' constant inference that animal rights' protesters
are inextricably linked with violence and criminal activity.
320. However, we are concerned that the
claims being made by MAFF are being used to conceal MAFF's failure
to implement the trial to a scientifically robust standard. For
example, Baroness Hayman recently stated that, "I would like
to make clear how much I deplore the intimidation and bullying
which has been used by some protesters. As well as affecting farmers,
landowners and staff involved in the trials and their families
it does no favours to animal welfare to stand in the way of proper
research in this area." (MAFF 2000c.)
321. However, the NFBG has found little
evidence to justify these claims. For example, our survey of police
forces covering the trial areas has uncovered only one prosecution
for alleged criminal damage and thus far, there have been no convictions.
In the counties of Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall, the police
have received no reports of violence, or threats of violence.
There has been only one recorded incident of criminal damage to
a single trap in the west Cornwall triplet, four warnings accepted
under the Public Order Act, one incident of aggravated trespass
and one report of a researcher being threatened at night.
322. If the alleged criminal activity is
as great as Ministers claim, we have to ask why the Government
is so reluctant to report these incidents to the police and encourage
the prosecution of alleged offenders. We have heard, unofficially,
that traps worth tens of thousands of pounds have been destroyed
and yet we have been unable to find any reports of this criminal
activity filed with offers policing the trial.
323. The Government has a duty to the taxpayer
to protect the assets that the tax payers have purchased. Yet,
if the facts above are true, the Government is either failing
the taxpayer or grossly exaggerating the true extent of criminal
activity. We urge the Agriculture Committee to press the Minister
on this issue, because if, as we believe, there is negligible
criminal interference with the trial, local police forces should
not be expected to waste valuable resources in order to cover
up the Government's management failings.
324. CATTLE HUSBANDRY:
325. The NFBG and its partners believe that
an effective and sustainable solution to the bovine TB problem
must comprise a package of measures which includes improved herd
health and hygiene. The NFBG has urged the Government to take
action on this issue and has been disappointed at the lack of
interest in this subject and the continued lack of resources provided
to appropriate research initiatives.
326. The NFBG has published detailed papers
on its recommendations for a sustainable strategy to control bovine
TB in cattle (NFBG 1999; CCW et al, 2000; NFBG 2000b, NFBG
2000c) and these all address the important issue of cattle husbandry.
We do not propose to repeat these here, but would instead urge
members of the Agriculture Committee to refer to those papers,
all of which are available from the NFBG office or the NFBG web
site (www.nfbg.org.uk). The NFBG also submitted detailed evidence
on cattle husbandry to the Committee, in response to supplementary
questions in March 1999.
327. Husbandry Panel report
328. The NFBG welcomed the review conducted
by the Husbandry Panel, as recommended by the Agriculture Committee
and submitted detailed evidence to the review. However, we are
concerned that the review team of four people was allowed only
three months to read over 3,000 scientific papers and take oral
evidence from interested parties. We believe this limited timescale
made it difficult for the Panel to conduct as thorough a review
329. The NFBG is also concerned that the
Government has not allocated funds to take forward the Panel's
recommendations and would urge the Agriculture Committee to seek
assurances from Ministers that research and practical measures
for improved cattle hygiene and welfare will be adequately funded.
330. TB99 questionnaire
331. The NFBG provided detailed comment
on the TB99 questionnaire to the Agriculture Committee in 1999.
We remain concerned that the questionnaire is still not sufficiently
rigorous to obtain critical information on why some farms suffer
repeat TB outbreaks and others do not. The NFBG was invited in
September 2000 to submit further recommendations to MAFF, but
it is not known whether these were included on the revised form.
30 October 2000
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