The European Parliament’s Intergroup for Animal Welfare and Conservation has written to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) urging it to give serious consideration to a complaint lodged by animal welfare charity Humane Society International/UK (HSI UK) against the UK government’s proposals to license badger slaughter as part of its strategy to control tuberculosis in cattle.

Bovine TB is a huge problem for parts of the UK’s dairy and beef industries, particularly in south west England and parts of Wales. Statutory control measures resulted in the compulsory slaughter of some 35,000 cattle in 2011, and the annual cost to the UK taxpayer is fast approaching £100 million.

However, the significance of badgers as a source of TB for cattle is hotly disputed. The previous government in Westminster, and the current Welsh Assembly, rejected killing badgers as a means of controlling the spread of the disease. But the Coalition government has published controversial plans that could see up to 130,000 badgers shot at night by farmer/landowner groups over the coming years.

HSI UK submitted documentation to the Bern Convention in January claiming that the plans contravened the Government’s commitments to the Convention on three counts: lack of evidence that culling will make a sufficiently significant difference to TB in cattle; lack of evidence to show that it will not seriously disturb badger populations; and lack of evidence to show that DEFRA is doing everything else in its powers to control bovine TB in cattle before resorting to wildlife extermination.

In its letter to the Bern Convention Secretariat, the Intergroup has asked that the Convention thoroughly examines the UK government’s plans, and considers whether they comply with the government’s commitments under the Convention.

The complaint has been referred to meetings of the Bern Bureau of the Standing Committee later this year.


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