Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Loophole or opportunity?

We have mentioned several times, the most irritating bloody stupid anomaly, where cattle, sheep, deer, alpacas and pigs can be screwed to the floor with movement restrictions, and yet by a quirk of legislation, badgers may be moved around the country, apparently with departmental blessing.

Two of the prime movers are the fragrant Mrs. Kidner - she of Secret World in Somerset and our old friends the RSPCA. You will see from the link, that Secret World are presently advertising for 'homes' for rescued badger cubs. Anyone can apply. Your place or mine?

Some of the earlier Parliamentary Questions raised by Owen Paterson MP in 2004, revealed this incredible opportunity for the spread of Tb by the involuntary translocation of badgers. We describe this as 'involuntary' because this is not when they walk into your farm by themselves, but when they arrive in the back of a vehicle and are released by 'others' in the name of 'animal welfare'.

From answers Mr. Paterson received, we would remind readers of just how open this policy is:
1. That it is NOT an offence to take a badger from the wild, if the reason for its removal is: "solely for the purpose of tending it".

Furthermore, as a native species: "there are no specific restrictions under current law regulating where badgers are released once they have recovered. Normally once fit enough to be released into the wild, the badger will be returned to the location where it was originally found.

This approach is recommended on welfare grounds due to their territorial nature, and also to avoid transmitting disease." 6th Jan 2004: Col. 249W [1444446]
Not by Secret World it isn't. See later.
2. The captive badgers are supposed to be tested three times using the old Brock test, which fizzled out as a live test as it was so unreliable. It delivered just 47 per cent sensitivity on a negative reading. However this procedure is not compulsory.

"testing guidelines are not mandatory, but are set down in a voluntary code of practise"

30th Jan 2004: Col. 543W [150609]
3. Animals testing positive should be euthanized: but what about the animals they have socialised with? And who proposed this ?:
"This protocol does not advise destruction of badgers who have had contact with a test positive badger. It should be emphasised that this voluntary protocol was not devised or approved by Defra."

 6th Feb 2004: Col. 1109W [150583]
As we said in that earlier posting, who the blazes did devise or approve it then? And why cannot Defra lift its collective head out of the sand to block this very worrying (for cattle farmers) loophole?

We have heard of relocated badgers being taken to Leicestershire's new National Forest, to South Yorkshire and even further north and eastwards into areas of 4 year cattle testing. But from where have they come? As Ms. Kidner proudly told a local SW newspaper: some are 'from areas which are designated to be used in a badger culling exercise".
You really couldn't make it up.

Describing her work in Somerset at Secret World, Pauline Kidner wrote in the BBC Wildlife magazine (1999) of the difficulties of relocating badgers within the area where they'd been turfed out found. And even with the comforting blanket offered by Defra that these creatures would not have been moved out of the area, 'on welfare grounds' and to avoid transmitting disease', Mrs. Kidner tells us that:
" Recent events have led us to question the procedure. (Of releasing them back into the place from which they came.) Two badgers were brought to us and treated for fight wounds. After being released, both were returned to us after suffering further and more severe fight wounds. They had to be put down"

"Our rehabilitated badgers when released for some reason not known to us are not accepted back by their own kind. They must be returned to sites unoccupied by badgers".
So, in a nutshell:
There are no restrictions on where 'sick / mended' badgers are released by such 'sanctuaries'.
These places are not licensed by Defra, and although they may use a 'voluntary protocol' to release badgers, this is neither drawn up nor approved by Defra.
Animal hospitals are not legally required to test badgers for Tb before release.
And there are no statutes preventing the 'relocation' of wild animals - even diseased ones.

So there you have it. After a vintage year for cattle slaughterings, the lady is looking for volunteer land owners to re home badgers from areas of endemic TB.

And the opportunity?
License and control these operations. Bring them in from the cold: use PCR to screen their rescues and then use them as restocks after clearing out the infected badgers and filling in their dirty ancestral homes setts?

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