Dear Mr Pursglove,
Thank you for your replies to my two earlier letters on birds of prey and Badgers. I’m grateful to you for taking the time and for such full respones – see my blog.
This letter is also about Badgers and follows the Westminster Hall debate on the subject at the end of March. It was a well-mannered debate and some good points were made, but, as you can see from the Wild Justice blog, the backbench contributions, but also that of the minister, Jo Churchill MP, failed completely to address the question of whether the government’s main chosen method of culling, shooting by rifle at night, is or is not humane.
The government failed to implement the recommendations of an expert panel which recommended that no more than 5% of Badgers should take longer than 5 minutes to die and my understanding is that in no year since the start of badger culling has that benchmark been met. This suggests that Badger culling, of something like 150,000 animals by now, is not humane and yet this government, your government, fails to address this issue. You will perhaps be aware that the British Veterinary Association withdrew its support for the Badger cull on the grounds that it was not humane.
I would be very grateful if you could ask your ministerial colleagues in DEFRA to clarify the government position on this matter. I shall scrutinise any response with the following questions in mind. Does the government claim that the current regime of shooting Badgers at night is humane? On what grounds when it does not meet the standards recommended by an expert panel convened by government which reported in 2015? Or does this government, despite the existence of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, not really care much about animal welfare issues?
Personally, I think the last view is closer to the truth, and it would be more honest if DEFRA said, that this government isn’t really fussed about the suffering of thousands and thousands of Badgers than claimed that all was well in this culling programme. But I’ll wait with interest to learn what DEFRA’s view is.
Dr Mark Avery, address supplied