An Broc (The Badger) is the newsletter of Badgerwatch (Ireland) Spring 2014
Newsletter no.     Website

Co-ordinator: Bernadette Barrett, 5, Tyrone Avenue, Lismore Lawn, Waterford. Irish Republic.

E-mail +353 (0) 51-373876.


Abandoned by the Bern Convention.

Stabbed in the back by National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Executed by the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.


The ultimate fate of our badgers

Protected by an massive array of legislation,  Appendix lll of the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat ) and Irish Wildlife Act  1976 (amended) 2000, one would be forgiven for  thinking that the protection afforded to our native badger was  absolute, in short, untouchable.  How wrong can we be?  According to figures accumulated from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, (DAFM) thousands of badgers are captured and subsequently killed every year in a cruel multi-strand wire snare. To date, approximately 100,000 badgers have met their fate in Department of Agriculture snares.    The trapping licence is issued to the Department by none other than the National Parks and Wildlife Service, (NPWS). Ironically, the NPWS is the office charged with the protection and conservation of the badger. 
Article 9 of Bern allows capture for scientific research under specified exceptions; one is that such exceptions will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.  Removing up to 7,000 badgers every year is a major cause for concern for the future of the species in Ireland by Badgerwatch and other environmental groups. Our badger population, once thought to be in the region of 200,000 (Dr. Chris Smal, Badger and Habitat Survey of Ireland, 1995) has been decimated.  The present population we can but guess but is thought in be in the region of 80,000 – 90,000. Removing consistently high numbers every year from an ever depleting population will eventually render the badger species unsustainable.  The consequences here are unthinkable.

Unlike the fox, badgers do not repopulate easily.  Badger cubs have a high mortality rate with 50% of cubs failing to survive their first year. Welfare problems arise when a snared badger leaves orphaned and dependent cubs underground. Along with fearing for her own  life  she also has to suffer the thwarting of her maternal instinct to attend  and suckle her young.  There is no accounting for the number of dependent cubs who have died underground and will continue to die under these horrific circumstances.  Theirs is a lingering death from hypothermia and starvation. The Dept. of Agriculture and the Wildlife Service  have ignored this annual and largely unseen side of the badger pogrom.  This has to be accepted  as  a deliberate act of cruelty on their part.

The need for a closed season has been raised in the past by the Bern Committee. No action was taken.   There is a solution but it never been enforced.  A blind eye has been cast on the problem for far too long. Why has the NPWS failed to intervene and insist   on a nation-wide closed season for the duration of the animal’s most vulnerable time; its breeding period?   The DAFM’s response is a closed period on snaring operates in ‘new’ trapping areas from January–March, thus reducing the risk of snaring nursing sows.   Outside the ‘new’ areas, its business as usual.  The licence allows trappers to return time and time again to check setts for further evidence of activity.  Any sign of renewed activity results in snares being laid again because the instructions from DAFM is total clearance of badgers.  It can safely be said the chances of finding any member of the species in old trapping areas are indeed slim if not impossible.

According to Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveny, “Targeted badger removals will continue in the medium term”.  So, more badgers will die!  Is there an annual  fixed quota?  The licence is issued  specifically for scientific research.  What kind of ‘research’ demands tens of thousands of dead badgers?  “Field trials in badger vaccination were under way” said the Minister “and if successful, they would be incorporated in the eradication programme. The success of the vaccination programme carries  no guarantee that culling will cease. In fact culling will continue alongside the vaccine  trials for  many  years to come.  This is no secret. 

With  the likelihood that badgers will continue to be killed, who  is actually responsible for conserving the species?  The Bern Convention? The NPWS?  Neither, despite their  respective legislative powers.  Its twenty years since our one and only survey and an update is urgently required.  The NPWS have been handing out  the licence to eradicate badgers without question. It is time they stopped dragging their heels.  Use some of the millions of Euros spent annually wiping out badgers and at least confirm their present population numbers.  There is too much at  stake here.  Its past time to act





Parliamentary Question No.221

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will confirm when the results from several badger vaccination trials will be released; if he will cease badger culling in the meantime in view of the fact that €3.4 million was spent on culling 6,939 badgers in 2012 and only 55 less cattle were diagnosed with Bovine TB in comparison to 2011, and in view of the fact that the transmission route is still unknown between badger and cattle; if he will not cease culling, if he will provide a closed season between January and May when badgers cannot be culled as they are breeding and while a detailed survey has not been carried out to clarify present badger populations which may be significantly affected due to years of culling practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Maureen O'Sullivan.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20th February, 2014.

Ref No:   8873/14     Proof:   255

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
My Department invests in extensive research in relation to badger ecology and vaccination programmes with the intention of developing a vaccination programme, with a view to replacing badger culling with vaccination when this is a practicable proposition. In this context, my Department has been collaborating for some years with the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis (CVERA) in UCD and with DEFRA in the United Kingdom on research into a vaccine to control tuberculosis in badgers and to break the link of infection to cattle.  Research has demonstrated that oral vaccination of badgers in a captive environment with BCG vaccine generates high levels of protective immunity against bovine TB.

Field trials are also being undertaken at present, involving the vaccination of several hundred badgers over 3 to 4 years, with continuous monitoring of the population to assess the impact of the vaccine on the incidence of disease in the vaccinated and non-vaccinated control badger populations. Success in the field trials is designed to eventually lead to implementation of a vaccination strategy as part of the national TB control programme. As it will be some years before full results of the trials will be available, targeted badger removals will continue in the medium term.

Conclusions about the success of badger removal, in terms of bovine TB levels, cannot be reached on the basis of a single year’s results.  Rather, trends over a number of years have to be taken into account and it is the case that there has been a very significant improvement in the TB situation in recent years and, in particular, since 2008: the number of reactors has declined by almost 50% from around 30,000 in 2008 to 15,600 last year, which represented a 15 % reduction on 2012 levels.  This is a new record low since the commencement of the eradication programme in the 1950s and, for the first time since the programme was introduced in the 1950’s, eradication is now a practicable proposition. The improved situation has also resulted in a significant reduction in expenditure on the Tb eradication scheme, which has fallen from €55m in 2008 to €30m in 2013.
While it is difficult to quantify the precise impact of badger culling on the reduction in the incidence of TB in Ireland over the past 10 years or so, my Department believes that much of the improvement is in fact due to the badger removal programme. In this regard, it is noteworthy that a recent peer-reviewed study, Bovine tuberculosis trends in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, 1995–2010 (Abernethy et al., 2013), published in the Veterinary Record, found that, during the period studied, the animal incidence of TB increased by 380% in England, by 190% in Wales and by 74% in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, the animal incidence in Ireland fell by 32% in the same period (and by a further 20% since the study). Significantly, the removal of badgers is not practised in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
The badger removal policy was introduced in light of research conducted over the years by the Department and others which demonstrated that the eradication of Bovine TB is not a practicable proposition until the issue of the reservoir of infection in badgers, which is seeding infection into the cattle population, is addressed.  Capturing of badgers is not permitted during the months of February and March (the breeding season) in new capture areas.  It is not proposed to extend this period to May.
With regard to the badger population, a complaint by the Irish Wildlife Trust that badgers in Ireland were under threat was dismissed by the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention which noted Ireland’s badger population is not being threatened and that badger numbers are being maintained at safe low levels. While estimating wild animal populations is a difficult task, current estimates are that badger numbers in the Republic of Ireland are in the range of 70,000-90,000. In addition, even in those lands where badger populations are being controlled, the local density of badgers is on a par or greater than the norms found on mainland Europe. Furthermore, Department sponsored research in collaboration with Teagasc is being finalised that concludes that badgers in Ireland are abundant everywhere and not under any threat of extinction.  This research will be published shortly when it has completed the peer review process.

Response to the above:
The figures referred to in Abernethy’s paper, Bovine tuberculosis trends in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, are grossly misleading. The period reviewed by the paper included the UK foot and mouth crisis. England, Wales and Northern Ireland all experienced exceptionally high levels of bTB post foot and mouth. The South of Ireland largely escaped this phenomenon.

The rise in bTB post foot and mouth has been attributed to:

a. the suspension of TB testing during the foot and mouth crisis and

b. the considerable movement of untested cattle (mainly from high risk bTB areas) to restock regions where whole herds had been culled in a bid to get on top of foot and mouth.

So, the figures in Abernethy’s paper are evidence that industry practices (or lack of them) and cattle movement are significantly, if not wholly, to blame for the high UK bTB rates.

Consequently, to quote Abernethy’s paper in defence of any wildlife bTb intervention is either a grossly incompetent lack of understanding of the facts or a grossly malicious intention to mislead.

Following the foot and mouth crisis, DARD almost immediately implemented enhanced cattle testing and movement measures which resulted in a 50% fall in bTB in the North. No badgers have ever been culled here. Since it introduced enhanced cattle measures about a year ago, England has experienced a 13% fall in bTB slaughters (comparable to the 15% figure quoted for the South of Ireland). Wales by contrast has managed to cut bTB by a creditable 24% in the same period after embarking on a programme of enhanced cattle measures and a badger vaccination programme.

There is NOTHING in any of the data to attribute the bTB trend in the South to badger culling. However there is MUCH in the data to attribute the bTB problem and its likely resolution to industry practice.



BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle

In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.

The statement was following a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 “How did the Irish badger cull play out?”

The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.

Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease.

This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent ‘success’ of killing badgers in Ireland. In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:

“Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they’ve gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast.”

Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media. Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.

“Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?

“The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they’ve been allowed to get away with it.  The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it’s very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda.”

The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.





Notes to Editors:

1)      BBC Article referred to  can be found at

2)      Full BBC ruling attached or available separately on request – file name ‘BBC Response to Complaint Feb 2013 TB’

3)      Independent on Sunday Article referenced was published on 13th October 2013

4)      Care for the Wild International is a charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of wildlife around the world. Our mission is to rescue, protect and defend wildlife around the world by committing our resources to deliver the greatest good. You can find out more about the charity by visiting Registered Charity No. 288802.

5)      Badger Trust promotes the conservation and welfare of badgers and the protection of their setts and habitats for the public benefit. Registered charity No.1111440





So, here we are in a Brave New Year and the flood of badger mythology / nonsense continues ...apparently Minister, the Hon. Owen Praterson recently told both Parliament and the Oxford Farming Conference, that the two (Politically "Science based" ) Pilot badger culls in Glos./Somerset were a "Roaring Success".. which rather proves Joe Ashton's blunt view that the key qualification for being a successful MP is "To master the art of peddling bullshit"!. Alice in Wonderland Rules OK....  it  seems that since culls are allegedly "essential, humane, cost-effective, and science based", Ministers are "Minded" to role out a further 10 Pilot Culls in 2014.
In fact the farcical cull omnishambles with "civil war" in England’s green and pleasant land,  between protestors/cullers, with  extra policing  cost £7 million, so £4000 per  badger of the 1771 badgers culled. This was way below the  magic 70 % out of a guestimated population of 3000 or 6000 (!) badgers, which apparently "moved the goalposts "as to numbers  :- it was obvious even before the launch that the a cull of 70 % of in truth an unknown base population was rather daft.

The  70 % was a compromise in order not to contravene the Berne Convention "eradicating"  threatened wildlife . And on DEFRA's own data, only c. 10% would have been infected so 170 badgers, of which a mere dozen likely to have advanced TB and be "superexcretors" which Might pose a risk via an uncertain transmission route to other badgers or cows.(see Obviously this wont have made the slightest difference to controlling the spread of cattle TB which has been spread  amongst cattle anyway . So, a very expensive way to Not control the spread of TB, and unsustainable given that the DEFRA budget must cut £200 Million over the next 4 years.

Since even some farmers recognised "shooting free running badgers" was/ is a pretty  crass idea, the idea of alternative culling such as by  gassing goes  back to  the 1970s, but it was hydrogen cyanide, not carbon monoxide, it was inhumane since even power gassing did not permeate in lethal concentrations in diffuse setts, and it did not cure TB in the Thornbury Avon study area .. there were yearly "unconfirmed" outbreaks after gassing ended,  having wiped out the badger population, but  these are the 85 % of New cattle herd breakdowns usually allegedly "Due to Badgers", but in fact are merely due to skin test reactors caught so early that they do not show TB lesions or identifiable M.bovis , but they are not false positive cases, they DO have TB !

The biggest farcical claim persisting is that Badger culls or vaccines will make any difference .. the True result of the RBCT/Krebs  Cull (ISG 2007) has been widely misinterpreted :- since supposedly badgers cause 50 % of cattle herd breakdowns, there should have been half the number of breakdowns (834) in cull versus no cull areas , But the cull  of 11,000 badgers at a cost of £50 million was absolute ZERO effect on cattle TB, the  accumulated number of breakdowns after 8 years was 1562 in cull areas versus 1668 in no cull areas , i.e. a mere 106 herds, or 10 per 300 triplet area .. the only surprise was the vagaries of cattle controls did not have a bigger differential inefficacy.

NB . The logical conclusion from all this is that: - 

A.  the badger contribution to cattle TB was absolutely NIL, and

B.  the whole "Perturbation idea", that culls might work or might  make things worse by upsetting the badger population, so that badger vaccines might be the magic bullet   (cost £640 / badger in Wales)  is a wonderfully insane solution to a non-existent  problem.
sincerely, M.Hancox MA Oxon, ex-Government TB Panel ,





Claims that ‘high number of badgers are sick’ undermined by Welsh research

Out of nearly 1200 badgers caught in Wales for vaccination, none showed any signs of illness.

Consistent claims by the UK government that badgers are very sick with TB and at a high risk of spreading disease to other badgers and cattle have been shot to pieces by statistics from the Welsh Government Badger Vaccination Project.
Environment Minister Owen Paterson has justified the current badger cull many times by claiming or insinuating that most of the animals being killed are disease-ridden: and thus culling them is actually a blessing for the badgers themselves.
In an interview with the Independent Newspaper on the 13th October he stated that many badgers are “sick, emaciated animals spewing out disease”.
He went even further in Parliament on 10th October when stating in a Parliamentary Question to Angela Smith MP that “some of the animals we have shot have been desperately sick in the final stages of the disease.”
But evidence suggests that the badgers are nowhere near as sick as is being made out. In a response to a Parliamentary Question from Caroline Lucas MP on 18th November we learned that Owen Paterson has no evidence to back up his claims that shot badgers have TB, and was basing his statements on unsubstantiated reports from NFU contractors and farmers involved in the cull – none of which are known to have any veterinary qualifications.
In addition, figures from a report into the Welsh Government’s Badger Vaccination Project show that out of 1193 badgers caught to be vaccinated last year, NONE were visibly sick.
Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild, said that very sick badgers which could spread the disease – often referred to as ‘super excreters’ – could have visibly poor skin condition, weight loss and ulceration.
“Owen Paterson has misled MP’s, his constituents and the wider public by stating that nearly 40% of badgers suffer from late stage TB and are at a high risk of spreading the disease to other badgers and cattle,” he said. “But he has no evidence to back up these claims and is simply creating a climate of fear to justify the badger cull policy in the face of rapidly growing opposition.
“The Randomised Badger Cull found that of 9919 badger killed, only 166 (1.67%) were suffering from late stage TB and therefore could be considered ‘super excreters’, and this is backed up by the Welsh Government Badger Vaccination Project, which found no badgers falling into this category despite being undertaken in a TB hot spot area.”
While identifying diseased animals by sight is far from ideal, it is the only method left as the government refused to test any of the culled badgers for TB. By using ‘visual evidence’ as a way to justify the policy, Mr Paterson has scored another own goal. Other claims he has made that have been shown to be untrue or misleading include:

  • Culling has been successful in the Republic of Ireland. But this has been undermined by the fact that Northern Ireland has had greater success in lowering the rate of TB – without culling a single badger.
  • The sharp drop in the alleged number of badgers in the cull zones over the last few months was due to natural causes (leading to the famous ‘the badgers moved the goalposts’ quote). But the likelihood of this being true was dismissed by experts, who said that illegal killing was a more likely explanation, and contradicted by Natural England’s own study sites.
  • The level of transmission of TB from badgers to cattle is 50%. This figure is disputed by many leading scientific experts, as it is based on a desk based mathematical model, not peer reviewed field based scientific research.

Dominic Dyer added: “When we focus on the scientific facts and not the fiction from Owen Paterson, we find that a vast majority of the badgers being killed at huge expense in Somerset and Gloucestershire are likely to be perfectly healthy and will pose no risk to cattle at all”.





Mr Owen Paterson, the Coalition and the cattle industry have wasted the lives of many hundreds of badgers and have suffered a humiliating and inevitable setback with the reported abandonment this weekend of extended badger killing in Gloucestershire [1].


The controversial free shooting method used departed far beyond any scientific precedent and even beyond its own original terms of reference. Cage trapping and shooting in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial lasted only 11 days, but Ministers and officials said on six occasions that six weeks would be necessary for the pilot trials. They then extended them to nine weeks in Somerset and a disgraceful 14 weeks in Gloucestershire.

Natural England is responsible for issuing the culling licences, but its board was divided when it recently decided to allow the two-month extension of the Gloucestershire culling period. This was against the advice of Prof. David Macdonald, chairman of its Science Advisory Committee and a board member.

The Badger Trust, which has been in constant communication with Natural England and Defra, eventually received the minutes of the meeting disclosed under the Environmental Information Regulations. As recently as Tuesday (November 26) the Trust was pressing for the numbers slaughtered to be revealed.
Prof. Macdonald, of Oxford University, told The Guardian last month: "My personal opinion as a biologist [is] not to continue the cull. One could not have significant comfort that the original proposals would deliver gains to farmers. Extending the cull would make the outcome even less predictable and even more unpromising." [2]

David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “This ill-advised cut-rate shambles has involved miscalculation of badger populations, manipulated time scales, huge expense for the taxpayer in policing costs, and the fiasco of repeatedly-missed targets. If it was not so serious it would be comical and should never have happened in the first place”. If culling is rolled out in affected areas of England next year as threatened it would have to be by the cage trapping and shooting method at up to ten times the cost to farmers.
Jack Reedy
01564 783129
0775 173 1107



Views expressed in An Broc may not necessarily be those of Badgerwatch (Ireland)


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