The Rt. Hon Theresa May MP
10 Downing Street
Cc: The Rt. Hon Andrea Leadsom MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Defra, Nobel House
17 Smith Square
19th July 2016
Dear Prime Minister
May I firstly offer our congratulations to you on your appointment as Prime Minister; we wish you every success in this role.
I realise that you will have countless pressing issues in your first days as Prime Minister but, on behalf of the undersigned organisations which constitute ‘Team Badger’, I write to bring to your urgent attention the matter of the badger cull, and to respectfully urge you to instruct Natural England NOT to issue cull licences for 2016 and beyond.
On 12th July three of the country’s most highly qualified experts with experience of badgers and bovine tuberculosis wrote to you to explain their science-based position of opposition to the cull, on the grounds that it is both ineffective and inhumane. Team Badger organisations understand that bovine TB is a serious problem for farmers, requiring meaningful action from government. But the verdict from the overwhelming majority of experts is that this is a disease spread almost entirely through cattle to cattle transmission and, as such, it can only be solved through cattle-based measures such as increased disease testing and enhanced on-farm biosecurity. Using badgers as scapegoats for this disease is failing farmers, as well as badgers.
The badger cull continues to be an extremely unpopular and expensive policy which many millions of British people oppose. Over 70% of respondents to Natural England’s recently concluded consultation conveyed their concerns that a roll-out of the cull could be bad for business, due to people avoiding cull areas. A further 40% expressed fears that the cull could risk human health and safety in shared countryside spaces, and expansion of the cull would mean even greater pressures on police forces, drawing their attention away from crime prevention priorities. All this for a policy which is clearly seen to be failing in its objective.
We further observe that the UK’s commendable goal to be a world leading authority on animal welfare will continue to be seriously undermined if the government seeks to defend a wildlife cull with a methodology that animal welfare experts, including the British Veterinary Association and the Government’s own appointed IEP (Independent Expert Panel), have agreed cannot be carried out humanely and effectively, and has little or no potential for improvements.
Finally, of all your government departments, DEFRA faces perhaps the most acute resource challenges ahead on the Brexit path, making this a highly inopportune time to expand the extremely costly and divisive culling policy into, potentially, nine English counties. With this in mind, we ask that you and your newly appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Andrea Leadsom, take this moment as an opportunity to pause and review the evidence that unequivocally shows culling badgers to be a flawed policy.
Ending the cull will enable focus and funds to be redirected into effective and more humane solutions to bovine TB: the introduction of an effective cattle TB vaccine; increased frequency of testing in higher risk areas allowing better identification and management of the disease; and improved disease containment through risk-based cattle movement controls.
We urge you and your Ministers to examine the success of the Welsh government’s TB policy using such measures, where bovine TB is being driven down at a much faster and more efficient rate than in England, and without culling badgers.
I would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you face to face about these issues, if and when you have a moment in your schedule.
Yours sincerely, with respects
Dr Brian May
on behalf of the following organisations: