Call off the cull; As Tories plan to shoot 14,000 more in bid to fight bovine TB...
Simon Cowell MBE is Britain's badger whisperer. The author, conservationist and TV presenter has rescued wildlife for 35 years.
He has hand-reared more than 500 orphaned badger cubs and returned them to the wild.
He believes the Governmentbacked cull to contain bovine TB, condemned by Queen's Brian May as a disgrace, is pointless. As an extension to the scheme is announced, he argues it is inhumane, ineffective and insane.
ONE of the most painful sights I've seen in 35 years of animal rescue has been the spectacle of a baby badger cub trying to suckle from its dead mother beside a busy road. I still well up when I think about it.
Every year the charity I run, the Wildlife Aid Foundation, takes in tens of thousands of animals, including hundreds of orphans.
We look after them, rear them, protect them and finally release them in safe sites.
It is done only to votes - a cost Our orphaned badgers lose their parents in road accidents. Some have been abandoned because their setts have been disturbed by developers. Others have narrowly escaped the horror of badger baiters.
The badger is one of our most iconic, loved and important species.
It is protected but, judging by the raw deal it gets from man-made threats, you wouldn't think so.
Since 2012, it has had another threat to contend with.
The cull is a controversial government policy designed to protect cattle from bovine TB - a disease which ironically originates in cows and spreads to wildlife.
The policy costs a mammoth PS16.77million and it doesn't work. In my opinion it is purely political.
It is done to appease the National Farmers' Union, which supports the cull, and perhaps the Countryside Alliance. It is done to win votes.
It is a tragedy that lives are lost and the natural balance of our countryside threatened, solely for political gain. Yet the Government has now said it's extending the cull from three areas to 10 - including Herefordshire, Devon and Cornwall, planning to shoot dead up to 14,000 badgers.
It is no secret the cull doesn't work. The most senior scientific advisor to investigate the idea says it is pointless.
Professor Lord John Krebs held a 10-year review in the 1990s which found badgers could transmit the disease to cattle.
He called for trial culls, but concluded from them it is not an effective policy.
His sentiments have since been echoed by a host of other reports. This wilful disregard of scientific fact is unsurprising. I find it hard to understand why the badgers being culled are not tested for TB.
One organisation has offered to test them for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at its own expense - but the offer was ignored.
I believe the reason is because the number with TB would be tiny.
The badger has become a scapegoat. Bovine TB started in cattle and was spread to a host of other wildlife and then back to cows.
Badgers do carry it, but so do a range of other animals including deer, rats, cats and dogs - none of which are hunted and gunned down in the name of containment.
Yet all are far more likely to come into contact with cattle. Badgers are very shy, naturally keeping away from areas where there are people - including busy farms.
How prevalent is TB in badgers? The Wildlife Aid Foundation has been running for 36 years and we have never had a badger in with TB.
Recent figures show just 6% are carriers. The likelihood of passing the disease to cows doesn't warrant a draconian government-funded genocide. It is insane.
So we have a questionable policy which kills animals at a cost of around PS7,000 per dead badger - at a time of austerity.
Why are we wasting so much on something that is unproven?
Some of the problem lies in unauthorised movement of cattle and, in some cases, bad farm management. We know vaccination works but the vaccine is in short supply.
Would it not make more financial sense to make more vaccine, promote better husbandry and restrict cattle movement? The culling methods are questionable too. At the Wildlife Aid Foundation, we do everything to help our patients recover, but sadly some can't be saved and the kindest thing to do is to euthanise. We make sure it's done painlessly and with dignity.
The badger cull, on the other hand, is inhumane and cruel. The methods are questionable.
Rifles are used. Badgers' low nocturnality make them target for a clean kill.
In pilots culls over a fifth badgers were still alive five minutes after being shot.
The British Veterinary Association called for shooting to be abandoned. They were ignored.
The cull may even prove to be a huge own goal. Embarrassingly for the Government and Defra, been reports the cull actually leads to a rise in cases.
Normally badgers stay in a territory but, if you disrupt their social groups, it leads to more movement - and migration into cull areas.
The food chain, with its natural balance, is vital. The natural world is already under immense stress. Badgers have a role - they control pests, they spread seeds.
They are not our only endangered animals. Hedgehog numbers are crashing too. If we disrupt the food chain, consequences will be dire.
Badgers are our only protected mammal, yet Defra are offering licences to kill them. The whole thing is absurd.
My Wild Life, by Simon Cowell, is published by Michael O'Mara and priced PS12.99.
It is done only to win votes - at a cost of PS7,000 per dead badger SIMON COWELL WILDLIFE EXPERT AND BADGER FAN
OUTRAGED Battler May
SNOUT OF ORDER Rescued badger
INJURED Badgers are hit on roads
BROCK 'N' ROLL Two orphan badgers curl up at centre
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2016|
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