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Badger cull / Badger cull in Hampshire

(1) Introduction

Did you know that badgers, a species protected by legislation, are being slaughtered on a grand scale throughout England, including in Hampshire?

Yes, it's true and the slaughter is as a result of the government's misguided and fundamentally flawed attempts to control bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), an infectious respiratory disease which affects cattle and some other animal species.

And all of this in plain sight at the behest of our elected, supposedly accountable government under pressure from the National Farmers Union (NFU), some of whose members (but certainly not all) have a deep-rooted, illogical hatred of badgers based largely on what their fathers said, and what fathers before them said. (In the past, this led to the annual gassing of large numbers of badgers).

But times have moved on - the gassing of badger setts has been illegal for many years, badgers are now a protected species, far more is known about how bTB spreads, and effective control measures - as used in Scotland and Wales - have been developed that do not involve the slaughter of badgers.

But still the officially sanctioned badger cull continues and still the government Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) continues to issue licenses to gunmen whose task is simply to shoot to kill huge numbers of badgers.

(2) Sir David Attenborough, Mark Carwardine, George Monbiot and Simon King OBE make the case for badgers - 6:18 minutes

(3) The facts - prepare to be outraged

Fact: Over 176,000 badgers have already been killed since the mass badger cull began in England in 2013.

Fact: The Conservative government aims to cull between 70% and 90% of badgers in each cull area - up to 72% of all badgers in England are estimated to be killed by 2025. (Instigating the badger cull in England was a commitment in the 2010 Conservative party election manifesto).

Fact: The majority of culled badgers that have been tested have been bTB free.

Fact: But badgers are not to blame for bTB in cattle - badgers have been made the scapegoat for the spread of bTB in cattle whereas the science suggests that methods of animal husbandry and cattle movements from area to area are more to blame, yet effective, mandatory cattle measures have not been introduced.

Fact: The badger cull is not working - killing badgers has not contributed to a decline in cattle bTB.

Fact: In Scotland and Wales, badgers are not culled but bTB in cattle has been reduced more effectively than England.

Fact: The first signs of local badger extinctions are being seen in English cull areas.

Fact: Huge amounts of taxpayers' money have been wasted.

(4) And in Hampshire

Fact: In 2021, 578 badgers were shot under government licence.

Fact: The 2022 Hampshire badger cull target has been increased by 115% so that between 1,064 and 1,586 badgers will be shot and no explanation has been offered for the increase.

Fact: Badgers slaughtered in Hampshire (and no doubt elsewhere) are not now tested for bTB so nobody knows how many, if any, were infected with this disease. (If they were tested, the results would probably be highly embarrassing for government).

Fact: More domestic cats tested positive for bTB (one) in Hampshire during 2020 than badgers (none) or even wild deer (also none ? ).

Fact: Not a single badger from Hampshire tested positive for bTB in 2021.

And if badgers can be slaughtered on such a wide scale elsewhere in Hampshire, how long will it be before this dreadful cull is extended to the New Forest?

(5) Badgers at play - a full 17 minutes of badger action

But sadly, the badger cull seems to have taken on a life of its own

Those responsible for organising this slaughter refuse to engage with wildlife and conservation organisations, and with members of the public - the electorate.

Indeed, the badger cull continues and so does the cruelty, whatever the facts of the matter - there seems to be a need for government to be seen to be doing something, anything, however inhumane and ineffective.

But, of course, engaging with dissenting voices would mean examining the facts, and that would never do, nor would admitting that mistakes have been made, taxpayers money has been wasted and viable alternatives have been ignored.

(6) What can be done to bring about change?

That's a good question as much has been tried, and all to no avail.

We're supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, yet frustratingly, petitions to Parliament, challenges in the High Court, demonstrations in London and elsewhere, local hostility to the cull, and other initiatives have, in reality, have had absolutely no effect, for still the cull continues.

But now is not the time for sensible, like-minded people to give up. Badgers desperately need our help so please, let's continue to increase the profile of this cruelty to such an extent that the politicians actually start to take notice.

a) Write to your MP, and maybe other MPs, spell out the facts and request a response that outlines their position on this policy. And if you are ignored by the politicians, write again and again to remind elected members that this issue will not simply go away.

(Pre-printed cards to send to MPs are available from the Badger Trust, but perhaps personal emails or letters are likely to be far more effective).

b) Write to local and national newspapers and, for example, urge action by investigative journalists.

c) Use social media channels - Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example - to highlight what's going on and urge action.

d) Put up posters in public places locally and do whatever else you think will help draw attention to the plight of these wonderful creatures.

Find out more

There is lots more information about the badger cull on the Badger Trust website, whilst a blog post produced in November, 2022 by Nick Cole, chair of the North East Hampshire Badger Group, sets out in more detail the situation in that part of the county.

(I am, incidentally, indebted to Nick Cole for some of the facts contained on this page, particularly those relating to Hampshire, and for some of the text used here).

Other useful sources of information

Wildlife Trusts: saving species - badgers
"The Wildlife Trusts have opposed the badger cull since it first started and no Wildlife Trust will allow badger culling on its land".

National Trust - Badgers and bovine TB
"The National Trust's approach to controlling this disease is guided by the wish to be humane, evidence-led and safeguard local wildlife populations. The culling of badgers is not taking place on National Trust land".

League Against Cruel Sports - stopping the badger cull
"While some farmers fear that badgers transmit bTB to their cattle, there is no conclusive evidence that this happens often enough to be significant. The main source of transmission for bTB is from cattle to cattle".

RSPCA condemns new badger cull targets which ignore study based on government's own scientific data
"We don't support the badger cull and believe that more can be done to tackle the disease in cattle. We believe there are solutions that will benefit farmers, cattle and badgers".

More about badgers and a variety of fascinating badger videos

Badgers - a general introduction
Badger field signs - look out for evidence of badger presence in the countryside
Badger watching - a guide to watching badgers
Badger behaviour - an introduction to a series of badger behaviour videos, mostly shot in the New Forest, and lots more information about badgers
Badger's setts - situation, size, tunnelling and excavation (videos)
Emergence from the sett - times of emergence and factors influencing variation (videos)
Grooming and mutual grooming - badgers grooming themselves and each other (videos)
Scent marking - badgers scent marking their nearest and dearest, and also their territory (videos)
Badger bedding - essential comfort for a good day's sleep (videos)
Play fighting amongst the cubs - high jinks by the sett, but also preparation for later life (videos)
Badger fights / badgers fighting - potentially vicious affairs (videos)
Badgers and foxes together - an often uncomfortable relationship (videos)
Disturbance at badger setts - by people, cats, dogs and passing foxes (videos)
Other animals in the sett, and animal passers-by - shared living space, rabbits, mice, deer, ponies and more (videos)
Badger cull - badgers, bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), and the badger cull

Badger Trust
North East Hants Badger Group blog: Nick Cole
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal
Badgers: Ernest Neal and Chris Cheeseman
Darkness Is Light Enough: Chris Ferris
Out of the Darkness: Chris Ferris
Eileen Soper's Badgers
Mammals of Britain and Europe: David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett

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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley