Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Blind Alley?

We have referred to the constraints on badger culling under the terms of the Bern convention in previous posts. Badgers are protected under Annex 111 of Bern, which does allow for population management, or disease control but in very prescribed way.

At the moment it is reported that 'farmers' ( or rather the NFU led by government) are calling for badger culling on a massive scale, to be undertaken by farmers and using ... snares.
(Not in my name they aren't. )

But our reading of the message below received today from the European Commission, Strasberg is that under the Bern Convention (even if we wanted to, and 'we' do not) we cannot use snares. We can use "regulated exploitation" (that's culling in English) but only when it is not detrimental to the survival of populations concerned, including causing local disappearance of or serious disturbance to populations of species under Appendix III- and there is no other satisfactory solution.

To us that seems to mean, only a very targeted cull is available - if and it is a big "if" we have no other satisfactory solution available hence the big push for more cattle testing.

Have government and their 'experts' cocked this up big time? They didn't realise we couldn't do it, have done so now and are now busy promoting "other" options to escape from the problem with out admitting the cock up? It wouldn't be the first time. It's called covering your back.

The only other explanation is the contrived vilification of cattle farmers on the altar of political expediency, and major inputs into several universities to take pressure off the education budget.

Anyway, from the horse's mouth, an explanation of Bern and badger control:

"As you know, the Meles meles is listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention and therefore do not benefit from the highest level of protection provided by the Convention (Appendix II species). Article 7 allows the 'regulated exploitation' of Appendix III species, such as Meles meles, while Article 8 of the Convention indeed bans the use of indiscriminate means of killing for Appendix III species, including those listed in Appendix IV such as snares.

These provisions must be read together with Article 9, which allows for exceptions from Articles 7 and 8 which are "not detrimental to the survival of the populations concerned" and given that "there is no other satisfactory solution".

Together with this erudite piece of information, which specifically says that 'indiscriminate means of killing such as snares' is banned, Article 9 has an absolute gem in part 2 which requires 'the Contracting Parties' to report to the Standing committee every two years. Information required must specify:

* the populations involved and when practical, numbers involved.

*the means authorised for killing or capture.

*the conditions of risk, circumstances of time and place under which exceptions were granted.

*the authority empowered to declare these conditions have been fulfilled, ... their limits and the persons instructed to carry them out.

*the controls involved.

Are you getting the picture here? 'Farmers' will cull badgers using snares? We don't think so.

Our contact in Strasberg finished by saying he hoped we found the information useful.
Perhaps Defra may find it even more useful.


George said...

Perhaps the European Commission ought to talk to the OIE about the TB problem in the UK. The badger is not an endangered species so reducing the population locally will not threaten its survival - maybe the Bern Convention needs amendment.

Matthew said...

The OIE cannot fail to notice the UK's figures. They are the worst in the world.
The Commission has already covered its back by issuing a Veterinary certificate for 'products' (unspecified)exported from the UK and Ireland, into mainland Europe. This describes the Tb status of the exporting farm which has to have been clear for 12 months. So our problems are the least of the EU's worries. It has given itself the power already to 'Ban' products from countries or regions which are causing indigestion.

Bern allows for population management, and disease control in species listed. It's the manner in which that is carried out that is specifically directed. And snares they do not like - even if Bradshaw does.

PCR would work, and comply with Bern by targetting infected sets. Which is probably why Bourne et al are dead against it.