Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 changes immediately.

  302.  The NFBG would urge the Agriculture Committee to insist that measures are taken immediately to prevent further welfare problems—a 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 trial.

  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 shot.

  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.


  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 ( 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 as possible.

  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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