By John-Miguel Dalbey
In a recent analysis issued by Britain’s Independent Expert Panel, badger culls recently conducted in the Gloucestershire and Somerset regions were deemed ineffective and inhumane. Badgers had been deemed possible carriers of bovine tuberculosis, and the culls were conducted in order to prevent the disease’s spread to local cattle. Farming groups hired contracted hunters to conduct the shootings. The IEP analysts found that between six and 18 percent of the badgers killed took longer than five minutes to die, and therefore the culls were deemed inhumane, failing the IEP standard of no more than five percent of badgers dying over so long a period.
Furthermore, the number of badgers killed was not enough to meet the cull’s target goal of eradicating 70 percent of the badger population; only 58 percent of Somerset’s badgers, and 30 percent of the Gloucestershire badger populations were culled according to calculations provided by those conducting the cull. However, the IEP’s calculations suggest an even lower amount. A series of similar trial culls conducted in the 1990’s showed that if less than 70% of the population was culled, the spread of bovine tuberculosis could worsen as wounded or distressed animals would flee the area, spreading the disease even further.
Originally, the IEP was formed under the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs — similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — in order to aid Gloucestershire and Somerset in evaluating the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of trial environmental programs. As the trial badger culls were deemed ineffective, as well as cost prohibitive at more than $12 million, a broader nationwide cull will not be put into effect. Should a more closely monitored program be implemented in the future, the panel suggested that the hired hunters be more closely observed, to avoid such variation in effectiveness.