Badger cull: activists on night vigil yet to see dead animals!

Badger (Photo credit: Tatterdemalion!)

Badger cull: activists on night vigil yet to see dead animals

As marksmen begin their hunt in pilot areas, protesters step up their watch with groups looking out for wounded badgers • Q&A: what the cull means

Protesters from 'Camp Badger' near Watchet in Somerset go on a walk in the cull zone

Protesters from ‘Camp Badger’ near Watchet in Somerset go on a walk in the cull zone, looking out for dead or wounded badgers. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA

“Mister Fox”, the pseudonym of a well-spoken anti-cull activist in his 40s, can barely speak after three nights’ stumbling by torchlight along the footpaths of Somerset in search of for badgers – dead or alive.

He has seen neither hunter or animal yet however. “We have been checking 20-30 badger setts every night. Last night I was up 11.30 to 4, tonight will be the same. We can definitely say that no badgers have been killed round here.

“Eight of us went out last night and there were definitely no bodies, no sounds of hunters, no signs of their traps or sight of their cars. To our knowledge there have only been three cases of baiting in this vast area of hills and woods. We saw numerous setts but no people.”

Fox, and others at “Camp Badger”, a small camp of protesters outside the seaside village of Watchet, think the people culling may not be nearly as numerous, or as efficient as they have been made out to be by government.

The protester said: “We are beginning to think this whole operation may be rather amateur. We don’t think they even know where the badger setts are. We are keeping an eye on loads of them and there’s no activity. We are pretty certain that farmers have been going out before the cull and gassing badgers, but there’s no evidence at all so far that there have been any deaths since [Owen] Paterson [Defra secretary] announced its start.”

Last night Defra declined to say how many, if any, badgers had been killed on night one of the cull in the pilot areas of Somerset or Gloucestershire. A spokesman said: “The information is not actually kept by us. We will only release statistics of badgers killed and humaneness of the kills at the end of the six week cull. We will be saying nothing for six weeks. We will do the pilot culls first. No incidents have been reported so far.”

Camp Badger is, so far, modest: a few large tents pitched at one end of an overgrown car park with a sea view, and at least five TV broadcast vans at the other. A dozen protesters, aged 20 and upwards, sit around on rubber tyres and logs, waiting to give TV broadcasts or to go “on patrol” in the woods when it gets dark.

“Frankly we’ re still pretty disorganised. The trouble is the culling zone covers 58 square miles and we are at one end of it. There are four or five teams of sabs [saboteurs] out there but they are keeping their heads down. Others are just doing their own thing”, says one woman.

“Badger bastards!” yells a man in a car passing the camp and hooting displeasure. “Most people round here are on our side. We should have about 50 people tonight out on patrol. There were 200 for the vigil in Minehead“, says Jess Crabtree, who helps run Somerset badger group.

In the absence of badger bodies and spokespeople for the farmers, the objectors have had a field day with wildlife groups, opposition parties and saboteurs condemning the cull as useless.

Mary Creagh, opposition environment spokeswoman, accused the government of cancelling five out of six of Labour’s badger vaccine trials and running down research spending on badger and cattle vaccines against TB.

According to Creagh, cattle vaccine spending has reduced from £3.68m in 2009 to an expected £1.9m, by 2015. Badger research vaccine is expected to fall from £3.2m in 2009 to under £350,000 by 2015/16.

“The government’s divisive cull will cost more than it saves and will spread bovine TB in the short-term as badgers are disturbed by shooting. We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements better and a vaccine to tackle TB in cattle. This cull is bad for the farmer, bad for the taxpayer and bad for wildlife”, she said.

But Defra responded that Creagh was wrong. “Investment in vaccines has not been cut. Since 1994 Defra has spent £48m on developing cattle and badger vaccines and we will invest a further £11.7m in the next three years,” said a Defra spokesman.

According to the government an injectable badger vaccine is available but there are “practical constraints with its use. It is expensive, you have to trap, catch and inject every badger and it takes longer than culling. There is also less evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing TB than we have for culling.” Cattle vaccine is prohibited by the EU and oral badger vaccines are not expected to be available for some years.

The CLA, which represents most of Britain’s large landowners, is strongly in favour of the cull. “Managing bovine TB in badgers is an essential part of the strategy seeking to eradicate this terrible disease”, said its president, Harry Cotterell. “TB has already cost the taxpayer around £500m in the past 10 years and without a wildlife control programme [like this] could rise to around £1bn over the next 10 years.”

But the chief badger defender, the Queen guitarist Brian May, lambasted the government’s science and costings. “The [culling] policy was and is a clear violation of the principles of scientific truth, outrageously quoting a massively comprehensive and expensive 10-year-study by a top British scientific team as justification for their actions – even through the conclusion of the experiment was that badger culling “can make no meaningful contribution to the control of bovine TB in cattle”.

“The authors of this report, along with essentially the whole scientific community, have repeatedly condemned this policy and labelled the government’s claim that it is ‘science-led’ as dishonest,” he said.

Don´t cull Badgers! There are other ways to clear the situation!

Badger cull begins in Gloucestershire and Somerset amid protests

NFU president says badger cull ‘absolutely necessary’ to fight bovine tuberculosis while protesters hit out at ‘inhumane’ tactics

  •         Press Association
  •,              Tuesday 27 August 2013 07.40 BST


About 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

The first pilot badger control operations have begun in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said on Tuesday.

In a letter to its members, the NFU president, Peter Kendall, said the cull was “an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry”.

He wrote: “We cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of [bovine tuberculosis] TB while knowing the disease exists in wildlife uncontrolled. It is why the NFU will be working with the pilot companies to ensure the successful delivery of these pilot culls over the coming weeks.”

Informing NFU members that the cull had started, Kendall wrote: “I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with TB on farm – some of you for decades – and I hope now you will feel that something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers …

“Badger control remains a controversial subject and we understand that some people will never agree with controlling badgers in this way.

“I am confident however that through the combined efforts of farmers, the NFU and government over the last year to illustrate the impact TB has on farms, and the scientific basis for badger control, more people than ever recognise the need to address the disease in badgers.”

About 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks, where two pilot schemes are taking place in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

But there is widespread opposition to the cull. Campaigners  turned out in large numbers on Monday at the two pilot sites to protest against what they have called an “inhumane” measure.

But Kendall said that he hoped people would come to understand that the culls were “absolutely necessary”.

He said: “It is also useful to remember our own survey this summer, which showed that two-thirds of the public either support or have no opinion on these badger culls.

“I hope that when time shows that these culls have reduced TB in cattle – just as has happened in Ireland – that even more people will understand that while sad, these culls are absolutely necessary.

“I hope that you will continue to show support for those farmers who are facing the nightmare of TB on farm and especially for those who are in the culling areas.

“You can rest assured that the NFU is working hard to support its members and the companies concerned with the culls.”

On Monday night, Somerset Badger Patrol held a vigil event in Minehead against the cull.

A statement on its Facebook page after the event said: “Over 200 people tonight at the procession, thank you all so much for coming… We fight on, knowing that we are right helps.”

Stop the Cull claimed on its Facebook page that more than 500 people turned out to protest at both sites on Monday.

An anti-cull activist was  arrested at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The man, named in reports as Jay Tiernan, who runs the Stop the Cull campaign, was chased on foot by police and arrested after climbing over a barbed wire fence into Aston Down in Stroud. He was arrested by Gloucestershire police on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the site.

He told ITV News  he was trying to gather photographic evidence after hearing reports that 200 “rusty cages” and “industrial sized fridges” were being prepared to hold dead badgers.

On Thursday, a high court judge made an order to stop farmers involved in badger culls being harassed and abused.

Mr Justice Turner granted an injunction at a high court hearing in London after lawyers representing the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said farmers had been targeted.

Read more:

Found some more articles about Badgers – with The Guardian:

More on this story

“More than a thousand racehorses a year sent to UK abattoirs

More than a thousand racehorses a year sent to UK abattoirs

Posted on Feb 14, 2013
Fallen Grand National may be hauled off to be slaughtered when injuries are too severe. Graphic by Vivian.

Fallen Grand National racehorses may be hauled off to slaughter when injuries are too severe. Graphic by Vivian.
Cross-posted from The Independent
The monitoring and tracking of horse numbers in Britain and Ireland is so lax that tens of thousands of animals may have been exported illegally and entered the food chain, experts have warned.
Officials at Aintree have been forced to deny that fatally injured horses could have entered the food chain
The Independent has also established that more than 1,100 racehorses were slaughtered in abattoirs in Britain in 2011, raising the risk that unscrupulous meat trade middlemen have diverted thoroughbreds for human consumption.
Officials at Aintree racecourse, home of the Grand National, have been forced to deny that fatally injured horses could have entered the food chain after it emerged that the owner of a Yorkshire abattoir raided and closed down this week on suspicion of supplying horsemeat to a Welsh processing plant has a contract to remove destroyed animals from the course. There is no evidence that the horses collected from Aintree entered the food chain.
Up to 7,000 unauthorised horse passports have been in circulation since 2008
Up to 7,000 unauthorised horse passports have been in circulation since 2008 after documents continued to be issued in the name of an organisation – The Spotted Horse and Pony Organisation – after it had its licence withdrawn. About 75 different organisations are authorised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to grant the passports, which critics say makes the system chaotic and vulnerable to fraud.
Animal welfare campaigners said that up to 70,000 horses have been exported from the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, some of them with records showing they are unfit for human consumption wiped clean with falsified documents.
One of Britain’s leading public health experts said that ministers were wrong to state that horsemeat poses no risk to human health.
Professor Hugh Pennington said that the potential involvement of back-street or poorly run abattoirs in supplying illegal horsemeat raised the danger of contamination by bacteria such as salmonella in processed food products:
“There are issues at the bottom end of the market with meat going under the radar, like the horse meat has been doing.”
bute found in eight out of 206 carcasses tested
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has sought to quell concern about the presence of a veterinary drug – phenylbutazone, or “bute” – in horsemeat that may have entered the food chain after it revealed that bute had been found in eight out of 206 carcasses tested in a seven-day period this month. Read more at >>

Horsemeat scandal blamed on international fraud

Horsemeat scandal blamed on international fraud by mafia gangs

DNA testing of food to be stepped up following fears there has been criminal activity on an international scale

Environment secretary Owen Paterson wants to see more DNA testing on food products. Photograph: Will Oliver/AFP

Organised criminal gangs operating internationally are suspected of playing a major role in the horsemeat scandal that has seen supermarket shelves cleared of a series of products and triggered concerns about the contamination of the UK’s food chain.

Sources close to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency said it appeared that the contamination of beefburgers, lasagne and other products was the result of fraud that had an “international dimension”.

Experts within the horse slaughter industry have told the Observer there is evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within abattoirs and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.

In an attempt to reassure the public that Britain’s food chain was not victim to systemic fraud, the environment secretary Owen Paterson on Saturday met representatives from the big four supermarkets, retail bodies and leading food producers to thrash out a plan to increase the amount of DNA testing of food.

“The retailers have committed to conduct more tests and in the interests of public confidence I’ve asked them to publish them on a quarterly basis,” said Paterson. He stressed there was no evidence yet that the scandal had become a public safety issue.

Paterson insisted retailers had to play the leading role in clamping down on the problem. “Ultimate responsibility for the integrity of what is sold on their label has to lie with the retailer.”

The last time the government sanctioned testing for horsemeat in animal products was in 2003 when equine DNA was found in salami.

The first results of a new series of tests for equine DNA in what the FSA terms “comminuted beef products” – where solid materials are reduced in size by crushing or grinding – will be published on Friday. “We have to be prepared that there will be more bad results coming through,” Paterson said.

He confirmed that the government was open to bringing in the Serious and Organised Crime Agency if, as seems evident, the fraud is on an international scale. He said the Metropolitan police had been asked to investigate the scandal and that the force was liaising with counterparts in other countries. Paterson suggested the scandal was potentially a “worldwide” issue.

“I’m concerned that this is an international criminal conspiracy here and we’ve really got to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

The Labour MP Mary Creagh said she was passing information to police that suggested several British companies were involved in the illegal horsemeat trade. “I hope that this information will enable the police to act speedily to stamp out these criminals who are putting the future of the food industry at risk.”

Concerns about the substitution of horsemeat for beef first emerged in mid-January when supermarket chains withdrew several ranges of burgers. Fears of contamination prompted hundreds of European food companies to conduct DNA checks on their products that resulted in the food giant, Findus, discovering that one of its products, a frozen beef lasagne, contained meat that was almost 100% horse.

It has emerged that Findus conducted three tests on its products on 29 January that suggested there was horsemeat contamination. The revelation has raised questions about why it took several days for the products to be pulled from the shelves.

Findus indicated it was ready to sue as the company announced it would on Monday file a complaint against an unidentified party.

In a statement, the firm said: “Findus is taking legal advice about the grounds for pursuing a case against its suppliers, regarding what they believe is their suppliers’ failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity. The early results from Findus UK’s internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in beef lasagne was not accidental.”

Supermarket chain Aldi has confirmed that two of its ready meal ranges produced by Comigel, the French supplier also used by Findus, were found to contain between 30% and 100% horsemeat.

Comigel claims it sourced its meat from Romania, which has been subjected to export restrictions due to the prevalence of the viral disease equine infectious anaemia in the country. Spanghero, the French company that supplied the meat for the Findus beef lasagne, announced it will also sue its Romanian suppliers.

The scandal has raised questions about what happens to the 65,000 horses transported around the EU each year for slaughter. The campaign group World Horse Welfare said thousands of animals suffered as a result of making long journeys across national borders. Partly as a result of welfare concerns, the trade in live horses has fallen dramatically. In 2001, 165,000 horses were shipped across Europe.

The decline in the cross-border trade in live horses has seen an increase in the sale of chilled and frozen horsemeat, much of which goes to Italy. Last year Romania significantly increased its export of frozen horsemeat to the Benelux countries.

Attention is now focusing on eastern Europe, a major supplier of horsemeat to France and Italy. Some of the meat that went into Ireland came from suppliers in Poland, which exports around 25,000 horses for slaughter each year. Industry sources also suggested to the Observer that gangs operating in Russia and the Baltic states were playing a role in the fraudulent meat trade.

Other food companies have, as a result of their investigations, found that their supplies have been contaminated. The FSA confirmed that meat held in cold storage in Northern Ireland has been impounded after it was discovered to contain equine DNA. A London-based company, 3663, found pork in some of the halal meat it supplies the prison service.

Questions are now being asked about meat supplied to a range of public sector organisations, including the NHS. “Every NHS and healthcare organisation will have different local circumstances and it would be for those organisations to satisfy themselves that the food they supply meets the needs of their patients,” said the Department of Health. “Any investigations into the provenance of those supplies would also be done locally.”

British farmers have expressed concerns that the scandal could affect consumer confidence in British beef. “Our members are rightly angry and concerned with the recent developments relating to contaminated processed meat products,” said the National Farmers’ Union president, Peter Kendall. “The contamination took place post farm-gate which farmers have no control over.”