Posts Tagged Shooting

Veterinary association to support second year of badger culls

Considering all the data I have read appears to indicate that badger culling to control tuberculosis not only does not work but actually makes it worse as it encourages badgers to move around more, I find it very disappointing that the BVA would support such a dubious activity.

Dr. F. Bunny

 

The following article appears at: http://www.farminguk.com/news/Veterinary-association-to-support-second-year-of-badger-culls_30544.html.

 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has said it will support the second year of the pilot culls in England. This follows Defra’s response to BVA’s call for improvements to humaneness and effectiveness in light of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report on the first year.

The IEP report, published in April, found that the first year of culling failed to meet criteria for effectiveness (in terms of the number of badgers removed) and that the method of controlled shooting had failed to meet the criteria for humaneness. BVA welcomed the report and called on Defra to implement all of the IEP’s recommendations fully.

BVA has remained in constant dialogue with Defra and met with the then Secretary of State Owen Paterson, the Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens, and other Defra officials to seek clarification on Defra’s proposals, as well as calling for robust monitoring and collation of results and independent analysis and audit by a non-governmental body.

Defra has moved considerably, confirming a number of changes to its plans. In particular, Defra has confirmed that:

– shotguns would not be used for controlled shooting

– contractor selection, training and assessment would be enhanced

– the number of field observations of shooting and number of post mortem examinations of badgers would be in line with that carried out in year one

– real-time information would ensure a better distribution of effort and that poor performing marksmen would be removed from the field

In addition, and in response to BVA, Defra has committed to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out during the cull. BVA is satisfied that the appointment of such an auditor addresses many of our original concerns. However, BVA will continue to call upon the new Secretary of State to put in place independent analysis in order to give confidence to the wider public.

BVA’s position on any further rollout of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers (and its continued use in the pilots) will be decided once we have assessed the outcomes of the second year.

Commenting, BVA President Robin Hargreaves said: “BVA has always maintained that we could only support the use of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be humane, effective and safe. We supported the findings of the Independent Expert Panel and called on Defra to implement the recommendations fully.

“We therefore welcome Defra’s proposals to improve humaneness and effectiveness in light of the IEP report, and we have been pleased how far Defra has moved towards BVA’s position, in particular by ensuring a robust and independent audit is in place.

“It is essential that Defra gets this right to allow the veterinary profession to have confidence that controlled shooting can be carried out humanely and effectively. We continue to call upon the Secretary of State to put in place independent analysis of the second year of culling to give confidence to the wider public.

“Badger culling is a necessary part of a comprehensive bovine TB eradication strategy that also includes strict cattle measures and vaccination. Culling remains a hugely emotive issue but we must tackle the disease in both cattle and wildlife. Scientific evidence supports the use of targeted, humane badger culling to achieve a reduction in the disease in cattle.

“I’m proud that the veterinary profession has had such a significant influence on Defra’s position and we will continue to engage with the government to ensure the pilot culls are humane and effective.”

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Shoot ‘Em Now!

Culling of eastern grey kangaroos has always been contentious. Since white settlement their numbers have increased dramatically thanks to improved pasture, the provision of dams and waterholes for livestock, and the removal of any possible predators. In many areas they are now at the point where they need to be culled to prevent them destroying their own habitat. The situation is worse when they are confined to fenced reserves where they breed unchecked with no opportunity for youngsters to disperse. I suppose we could just leave them be, which would more closely mimic their natural boom and bust cycle. In this scenario numbers build up until they get beyond the carrying capacity of the land. The population then crashes with large numbers of animals dying from starvation, malnutrition and diseases such as lumpy jaw and hookworm infection. As a veterinarian that does not sound particularly humane to me and it also impacts, not just the vegetation, but all the other animals that share their environment with the kangaroos. This occurred some years ago when a reserve in Victoria was denied culling permission. The vegetation suffered badly and all the eastern barred bandicoots, an endangered species that had been introduced to the reserve, perished as a result.

While culling is not a particularly pleasant option it is surely better than letting them starve to death. All fenced reserves need to develop a comprehensive management plan that involves reducing numbers to their optimum stocking density followed by reproductive manipulation through castration, vasectomies and contraceptive implants. In this way culling would not be used as an ongoing management tool but only to deal with a problem that has been allowed to get out of hand.

I am convinced that much of the opposition to culling is because kangaroos, like their arboreal brethren the koalas, are cute. Many years ago koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island. Given that an island is similar to a fenced reserve with no predators and no opportunity for dispersal the koalas ate themselves out of house and home. Culling would have solved the problem caused by this introduced species destroying its environment, but they were far too cute for that. If the island had been overrun by tiger snakes instead I’m sure no one would have raised so much as a whisper at the suggestion of culling.

The greatest tragedy, however, is that when a kangaroo cull is approved the shot animals must be buried and cannot be used for human or even animal consumption. While over 90% of Australia’s woodlands have been cleared, mostly for cattle and sheep production, a readily available resource is squandered. Not only is kangaroo meat lean and healthy but the animals themselves have a much smaller environmental impact than their cloven hooved brethren, with their methane breath and destructive feet. Why not use the resource that is already there, instead of importing thousands of ferals to further abuse an already damaged environment?

Dr. F. Bunny

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