Over the last months we have sought to inform our readers what actually happened on the farms involved in the RBCT. Matt 5, under restriction when the trial started with his organic Anguses, excluded to fester in his own little mini hotspot. Never mind the 50 per cent of land from which the teams were banned, the ISG's interpretation created their own exclusions as well.
Matt 3 in a Reactive area, where the Wildlife Unit took nearly 3 years to react to Matt's cattle. And on some farms didn't come at all. Matt 6 was in a Proactive in the far North. That fared a bit better, but Police action was more robust than some other areas and he did get 'Krebbed' every year. Once only for about a week, and not at all of course in 2001, because of FMD.
But it is on the basis of the first year's number crunching from all this chaos that so much of the 'Back off Badgers' polemic is based. And don't forget those traps. 69 percent trashed or interfered with. That combined with the 50 percent of land 'unavailable' to the team meant that in some areas they only accounted for 20 percent of their target. VLA said that - not us by the way.
But one splendid submission to the EFRA committee deserves our attention. That the Committee should have issued such a woolly and vaccuous statement after reading this is unbelievable. No it's not, these are politicians.
BTB 33 was submitted by a senior member of the Wildlife team with over 12 years experience who operated the RBCT and he says:
1. BRO's(Badger removals) worked well when the land being culled was made fully available. (We would guess he is referring to the drastic reduction made to areas avaible for BRO's from 7km down to 1 km and then only on land cattle had grazed)
2. Where (problem) badgers were totally removed from a farm, that farm after reactor cattle had been culled, often stayed clear of Tb for up to 10 years.
3. We stayed on farms for up to three months to ensure ALL badgers were caught - unlike the Krebs 8 days per year trapping regime.
4. You do not need large scale trapping for it to be effective, if the culling is robust from the start.
5. Krebs had too many anomolies and weaknesses in the strategy for it to be successful. It took us four years to steer away from trapping setts that had been interfered with by Animal Rights Activists, to be able to trap badgers anywhere, in order to eliminate them. That was only one of a raft of operational problems we faced and had to endure.
6. Limited trapping - eight days per year with Krebbs - has little effect if carried out late in the year. The effect being that areas went almost two years without an effective cull. (In some cases three, or not at all)
7. The costs for a future culling policy must NOT be based on Krebs costings. [ snipped ]
Krebs was ridiculously expensive for what it delivered.
8. ...... 'Professionals' should remain involved [ snipped ] to ensure that animal welfare and humaneness remain number one priority.
9. Compulsory entry onto farms is a must. Krebs has proven that wide scale non co operation does make it nigh on impossible to operate effectively.
10. The Krebs Reactive strategy ended prematurely in my opinion. The results used also showed us that in areas we had never operated in (J2 and H1 which had a very limited cull) also displayed the same increase in bTb outside of the areas. That has to be another logical reason for the increase, as it is clearly not badger- culling related. This point has yet to be satisfactorily answered.
11. The combined knowledge of the staff involved in all the previous culling strategies has never been utilised or sought when putting togather a Policy.
.............. Scientists do not have all the answers and most certainly Krebs doesn't. The Trial has far too many flaws in it to be trusted to produce meaningful evidence. I know what happened on the ground - the scientists only have the results which we provided them with to work with. I know that those results could and should have been much better and useful than they currently are.
Nobody - and I do mean nobody, working on the Trial at grass roots level has ever believed that operating under the too strict and inflexible regime that Krebs put in place could work successfully. All common sense answers to everyday problems were too often ignored because "things had to carried out scientifically" to mean anything. The whole basis of Krebs was to remove badgers off the ground. For the first four years, that effort was farcical due to restrictions placed upon us. Repeated requests to change operating methods were ignored. With that in mind, how much weight do we give the ISG report, detailing their 'robust' findings to the Minister? If it were down to me and my staff, very little."
There is little we can add to that, except to agree with every word, and point out that the 'magic circle' of the ISG is led and the Krebs Trial overseen by a 'scientist' who has spent the last three years chasing 14 million postcards , thinking they were cattle.