The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the Government’s decision to not roll out badger culling using controlled shooting to new areas.

The association is also calling for further detail and assurances before it supports the continuation of the pilots later this year.
In early April, the Government published the Independent Expert Panel’s (IEP) report into the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of the two pilot badger culls that took place in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year as part of its strategy to eradicate bovine TB.

The IEP findings showed the pilots had failed to meet the criteria for effectiveness overall and that controlled shooting had failed to meet humaneness criteria.
As a result, the Government announced badger culling would not be rolled out to other areas. However, the pilot culls have continued in Gloucestershire and Somerset to complete the four years of culling originally planned. Meanwhile, improvements are to be made to these culls.
On April 16, BVA council agreed a position that:

– recognises evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial suggests if culling in the pilot areas is stopped now, there is a significant risk this will lead to an increase in TB in cattle in those areas
– states BVA could only support further culling in the pilot areas if steps are taken to improve both its effectiveness and the humaneness of controlled shooting and if there is robust monitoring and collation of results, and independent analysis and auditing by a non-governmental body
– supports the IEP’s recommendations for improving effectiveness and humaneness and urges Defra to implement all the IEP’s recommendations fully
– states Defra’s current response to the IEP’s recommendations does not provide BVA with sufficient detail or assurances to satisfy us it will deliver the necessary improvements in effectiveness or humaneness
BVA said it is now seeking further dialogue with Defra to clarify the Government’s response and strengthen the implementation of the proposed improvements.
BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “BVA has always been clear we could not support the roll out of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be inhumane or ineffective, and we therefore welcome the Government’s decision not to roll out the cull to new areas.
“However, we must also take a position that will deliver the best possible outcomes for disease control and we know from evidence in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial that if culling in the pilot areas is stopped now there is a significant risk this will lead to an increase in TB in cattle.
“In reaching our position we have carefully weighed up both the scientific evidence and ethical arguments, as well as considering the views of our individual members and specialist divisions.”

Mr Hargreaves said it is “absolutely essential” significant changes are made to the pilot culls to address effectiveness and humaneness issues.

“The IEP has made strong recommendations to Defra and we not only urge Defra to implement them all fully, but will be looking for detailed assurances of how this will be done before deciding whether we could support the continuation.
“We will be meeting with Defra as soon as possible to discuss all of these issues,” he said.

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