Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wildwood Trust joins celebrities in signing up to save England’s badgers



007, M, an Avenger, Prince Vultan, Judge John Deed, a Prime Minister and a lion-hearted lady are amongst the stars that have signed up to save England’s Badgers.

Wildwood Trust’s Peter Smith was very honoured to be asked to add his name to the list of 100 of the UK’s leading celebrities, Scientists and Wildlife leaders campaigning to save the Badger.



Sir Roger Moore, Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Brian Blessed, Martin Shaw, Anthony Head and Virginia McKenna OBE are among over one hundred celebrities, scientists, naturalists, veterinarians and leading animal welfare and conservation groups to have signed a statement calling on the Government to stop the badger cull.  In a plea for compassion, the signatories ask the Government for its policy of killing to be abandoned and replaced with more scientifically credible, humane and effective solutions to tackling bovine TB (bTB).

The Joint letter was sent to David Cameron MP, Nick Clegg MP, Owen Paterson MP and Mary Creagh MP.

“We the undersigned ask the government to stop the badger cull and to implement instead the more sustainable and humane solution of vaccination, improved testing and better bio-security”

Two pilot culls intended to test the safety, efficacy and humaneness of killing badgers by free shooting or cage trapping and shooting are planned to begin any day now for a period of six weeks in undisclosed areas of West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.  If deemed successful, these plans could then be rolled out further, throughout the West Country to Derbyshire and the Midlands, in the mistaken belief that killing badgers will have a significant impact on the spread of  bTB.  Up to ten licences will be issued each year for four years, possibly resulting in the killing of as many as 130,000 badgers according to Natural England.

The signatories stand in solidarity with 263,000 members of the British public who have so far signed the Stop the Cull petition launched by astrophysicist and rock guitarist Dr Brian May.  It is the most successful ever H.M. Government e-petition.  Brian May founded Team Badger whose member groups include the popular Canterbury based charity Wildwood Trust, as well as many of the leading Wildlife charities in the UK.  Their joint outreach is to approximately four million members of the public, who subscribe to these organisations in order to protect wildlife and conserve the countryside for future generations.


Dr Brian May – Save Me, said:
On behalf of supporters of the Save-Me campaign and 263,000 signatories of the anti-badger cull petition on the Government’s website, we would like to remind the Government that there is massive public opposition to this ill-fated cull, which, it is becoming ever more clear, will not be of any advantage to cattle or farmers. The Government is acting, for political motives, on a course which cannot succeed in eradicating Bovine TB.  We urge David Cameron to take positive action to accelerate progress towards vaccination of wildlife and, most importantly, vaccination of the source of bTB in this country, cattle, along with full review of the skin test method of removing supposed reactive animals from herds, and an overhaul of biosecurity and movement control measures.

Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said:
“The badger debate has been around for a very long time, over 40 years, but behind the simplistic headlines that badger lovers and farmers are at loggerheads is a much more complex and subtle story, a story full of intrigue and vested interests competing for economic advantage.”

“Badgers have become an easy ‘scapegoat’ for those whose lives are threatened by bovine TB, but we must put aside short term economic needs if we are to tackle the serious problems that have built up in British farming.”

“Bovine TB was a dangerous disease and could infect people, mostly  through drinking milk. The introduction of pasteurisation effectively stopped the disease being transferred to humans. Over this time strict controls on cattle movements and herd quarantine ensured a reduction in bTB across the UK .  Since the 1970s these restrictions have been relaxed and the bTB has increased due to this lack of control.”

“Changes in intensive farming practices have also contributed to the epidemic, as cattle live in larger and denser groups and spend more time in large sheds and stockades increasing the spread of bTB. The larger groups ensure that bTB that is carried by few animals sub-clinically acting as a reservoir for the bTB going unobserved and be allowed to flare up again. This is the process that the farming lobby are trying to blame badgers, without credible scientific evidence.”

In a direct challenge to the vested interest threatening badgers and holding back the British farming industry, Wildwood Trust has come up with a four-point plan to eradicate TB from cows in the UK:

 
1.       Private insurance – reward the good and punish the bad
The present system of subsides rewards poor practice, the solution is to make those that cause the problem in farming through their bad and illegal farming practices. The best way to achieve this is by the withdrawal of all government subsidy and compensation payments. Farmers could then privately insure themselves against the risk of herd breakdown due to TB. This free market solution would reward good farming practices by such farmers having lower premiums. Farms with high risk would be charged high premiums and those farmers who commit fraud by changing ear tags and other illegal practices would invalidate their insurance.

2.       Reintroduction of stricter quarantine regulations on cattle movement
Detailed statistical analysis has shown that it is the movement of cattle from one farm to another that is by far the most important factor in the spread of TB*. The reintroduction of the strict quarantine measure abandoned in our past is key to control of bTB in the UK.

(*M. Gilbert, A. Mitchell, D. Bourn, J. Mawdsley, R. Clifton-Hadley & W. Wint Nature Vol 435|26 May 2005|doi:10.1038/nature0354)

3.       Good credible science – put the funds used for badger killing into proper scientific study of disease propagation and vaccines
The current system of spending large amount of taxpayers’ money on trials of shooting and gassing badgers at the expense of proper scientific study should stop. These funds should be redirected into proper microbiological research of the disease and its control by vaccination in cattle and badgers

4.       Introduce economic changes to taxation and land tenure to promote less intensive agriculture.
Our present system of taxation vastly favours tax-dodgers, land speculators,  large landowners and investment in huge cattle barns. This promotes the use of ever more intensive agricultural systems, increasing disease and animal suffering.
By shifting our tax base off wages and trade, and putting taxation on land values and natural resources we will promote farming jobs and animal welfare, making it economically competitive with farming practices that cause environmental destruction and lie behind poor animal welfare.


Badgers are just one of the huge range of British animals that can be seen at the Wildwood Discovery Park. For more information visit the website at www.wildwoodtrust.org or telephone 01227 712111.

Wildwood is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here, like the wolf, beaver, red squirrel, wild boar and many more.

Wildwood is situated close to Canterbury, just off the A291 between Herne Bay and Canterbury. For more information visit our website at www.wildwoodtrust.org or telephone 01227 712111

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Ends
Peter Smith is available for interview, and badgers the of wildwood can be filmed their natural woodland enclosure. We can supply high quality Photos and Video of badgers




For more information Contact Fiona Paterson or Peter Smith

Tel:          01227 712111



Key facts of bTB

1.       bTB is passed from animal to animal by aerosol in the form of close, mouth to mouth, transmission
2.       bTB is a ‘progressive’ disease not a black and white issue – the idea of ‘skin reactors’, the current method of detection is very flawed
3.       Cattle infect badgers but probably not the other way round (not one shred of real evidence exists for badger to cattle transmission, only inference conjecture)
4.       bTB is dormant for many years (if not decades in some animals) and this is the real ‘reservoir’ of infection –there is no real evidence of wild animal to cattle transmission. The best data available, from the studies done in Belgium, show that wild animal transmission has no statistical influence on the epidemiology
5.       The most probable culprit of the rise in bTB is when strict quarantine laws where relaxed 40 years ago, the bTB we see today is just the epidemiological statistical results of that relaxation, magnified by larger herd sizes (increases the chance a ‘dormant carrier’ infecting a herd) and greater densities in cattle sheds.
6.       Many cattle diseases, not just bTB, have increased over that time, pointing the finger to industry practices and animal husbandry issues
7.       Stress and ‘unnatural’ diet may (and I stress may as no real evidence) play a role in increasing the progression and expression of bTB in cattle


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