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Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Back off Badgers!" says the RSPCA
The RSPCA is today tackling the government head-on in a desperate fight to prevent the senseless slaughter of thousands of badgers in England.

Badgers are protected by law, yet the government is now consulting on whether - and how - badgers should be killed. They could be shot, snared or even gassed. The public only has until 10 March to write and object to the proposals - badger killing could start as early as this summer.

In advertisements in the national press, the RSPCA is urging members of the public to tell the government to "back off badgers" in the hope that public outrage will prevent the slaughter.

"The RSPCA believes that badgers are being made the scapegoats for a rise in bovine TB in cattle," explains Colin Booty, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA. "This is in spite of the latest scientific evidence which indicates that culling badgers is very likely to make the situation significantly worse. The evidence comes from the government's own research, which took more than eight years, cost taxpayers £34 million and involved the killing of about 12,000 badgers."

The results of the long-term government research project were published in December 2005.

"For the first time ever ministers have a robust science base on which to base TB control and they are ignoring it," said Professor John Bourne, the chairman of the Independent Scientific Group that designed the study. (Western Morning News, 17 December 2005).

The RSPCA believes that one of the strongest arguments against a badger cull is that it simply won't work. While there is a link between badgers and bovine TB in cattle, the nature of the link is not clear. A whole range of scientific studies show that infected cattle are the key source of infection in other cattle.

Therefore the most effective way to combat the spread of bovine TB would be more - and better - pre-and post-movement testing of cattle, together with strict quarantining of new animals. There are more than 13 million cattle movements in the country each year and because of the current inadequacies of testing, there are far too many undiagnosed cattle moving about the country.

It has also been claimed that culling badgers would be for the badgers' own good - to save them from a horrible death from TB. But most badgers don't have TB and even those with the disease often show no symptoms at all, and live + breed normally.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable test for TB in live badgers; the only reliable test is for dead badgers. This means killing them to find out if they are infected, which is a very extreme measure if they are not infected after all especially as the vast majority of badgers do not have TB.

All members of the public are encouraged to respond to the current government consultation by writing to: Bovine TB and Badgers Consultation, Defra, 1a Page Street, London SW1 4PQ or sending an e-mail to: bTBconsultation@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Visit the RSPCA's badger campaign area for more information