Conservation group condemns Minister’s plan to cull healthy badgers

The Northern Ireland Badger Group has joined other wildlife protection and conservation groups in condemning proposals for an indiscriminate badger cull in Northern Ireland.

Saturday, 24th July 2021, 12:02 pm

Responding to the announcement by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots the badger group described the plans as ‘barbaric’ and accused the Minister of declaring open-season on badgers and giving a green-light for the wholesale slaughter of a protected species.

Last week Minister Poots unveiled a consultation document on his proposals to tackle Bovine TB in Northern Ireland.

Group spokesperson Mike Rendle said: “Frankly it beggars belief that the Minister is prepared to sanction the slaughter of thousands of healthy badgers by farmers using methods that have already been branded as ineffective and inhumane by the British government’s own Independent Expert Panel. The proposals for the indiscriminate shooting of badgers and the use of snares are cruel and unacceptable. These have no place in the 21st century.”

The badger group pointed out that the greater majority of badgers killed will not have TB and that large numbers of healthy badgers will be killed. It says that the proposals would do nothing to reduce the prevalence of TB in badgers or cattle.

The group wants Northern Ireland to emulate the successful approach by the Welsh Government, which has rejected badger culling yet has managed to achieve a 50% reduction in bovine TB through improved cattle testing and biosecurity. However, this is not mentioned in the Minister’s consultation document.

Mr Rendle went on to say: “These proposals show a complete disregard for animal welfare. We do not believe that they represent the wishes of the farming community as a whole. The Department’s own research found that the majority of farmers preferred a more humane vaccination-led approach.

“Many farmers are also rightly concerned that culling will damage the image of farming at a time when farming standards and the environmental impact of the industry is under increased scrutiny,” he added.

Experts point out that badgers typically live only 3-5 years and in that period of time vaccination would reduce new cases of TB in badgers and infected individuals will die off.

“Anyone who has concerns about TB in badgers really should be supporting a proven and effective vaccination-led strategy,” Mr Rendle concluded.