Sunday, July 11, 2004

Defra's 'scientific' paper shield. The Krebs trial.

1. The Plan
30 areas of 100 grouped into 10 'triplets'. Each triplet would be divided into 3 circles, mapped and one of 3 'treatments' allocated. The first was a 'control' and if cattle Tb was found no action on badgers was taken. The second ( Reactive) would remove 'all' badgers if Tb was found, and the third (Proactive) would remove 'all' badgers anyway. After 5 years, comparisons between the 'treatments' would indicate which strategy worked and which did not. Culling would be with the use of cage traps and snares, and have no closed season.

2. The Trial.
Professor Krebs' trial protocol was changed and only cage trapping, was used, with a 'closed season' February - May.
Farms already under restriction with Tb, did not 'qualify' for clearance in the Reactive areas, leaving hot spots which could not be cleared. Landowners were free to deny entrance to the Proactive areas, with similar results.
In reality the 'scientific control' was no such thing, with cattle, feedstuffs, wildlife moving freely in and out of the designated zone.
The 10 triplets did not begin simultaneously, but trickled into operation over 5 years.
All Reactive badger culling was suspended October 2003.

3. The Reality.
The least amount of badgers caught with trapping was 30 percent of target and the best 80 percent. Not the 'all' which was what farmers had been led to believe. Operatives came once annually and in the winter or bad weather, cage traps + 'interference' meant 7 out of every 10 badgers targeted were not caught. When Defra left, many farmers reported more badger activity than before. Farms suffered damage and trespass, and farmers intimidation and abuse.
Over half the traps set, suffered 'interference'. Many disappeared.
Wildlife staff spent an average of 3 hours/per day each, travelling.
All work ceased during 2001 (FMD) Many farms in the triplet zones drastically altered either stock or farming practise during this.
Farms culled out, saw badgers disappear as the fields became overgrown and they had no cattle dung pats etc. to predate on.
If farmers restocked with cattle, they noted badgers which returned were scarred and battered with fighting. Tb soon followed.

Many areas both Reactive and Proactive had no clearance of any kind. Despite 'qualifying', Defra did not come at all for up to 3 years.
Areas had boundaries changed after the beginning of the 'trial'.
The so called ecological survey, was one person, standing on a pre determined spot, annually at the same time of day / night for 4 minutes. The spot was often in the middle of up to 500 acres.

The trial was forecast to last 5 years. That was 1997.
It is still forecast to carry on. It is 2004.
The paper shield is still standing.

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