The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has announced its support for a second year of badger culling in England in light of proposals to improve their humaneness and effectiveness.

An independent expert panel (IEP) report, published in April, found 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.

The BVA welcomed the report and called on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to implement all of the IEP’s recommendations fully.

The 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 officials to seek clarification on the department’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, the department 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 postmortem 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 the BVA, Defra has committed to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out during the cull. The 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 president Robin Hargreaves said: “The BVA has always maintained that it 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 the BVA’s position – in particular, by ensuring a robust and independent audit is in place.

“It is essential 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.”

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