Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Direct Action on the Badger Cull

Monday, August 26th, 2013

A cancer at the heart of government

The issue of the politics of farming has been a long term plan for about 10,000 farmers in the upper echelons of the NFU’s 55,000 members. They have managed to sneak their way on to the DEFRA management team and into leadership positions within Natural England. These people now maintain a corrupting and cankerous core at the heart of government – recent Freedom of Information Requests show without any doubt that they have conspired with the NFU to bring in a cull of Britain’s badgers.

Mass animal killing when there is a vaccine?

The badger cull is nothing other than a mass killing of badgers which will do next to nothing to reduce bovine TB infection rates in cattle. Indeed, better testing measures and restricted measures to move potentially infected cattle are already reducing the infection rates in cattle before any badgers are shot by the NFU. Using more accurate cattle TB tests; and using the TB vaccine on high and medium risk cattle herds could make bovine TB almost a thing of the past in many cattle-farming areas of Britain. The NFU’s twisted logic of avoiding the TB vaccine is the same as saying you’d kill the first of your children who got measles, polio or diphtheria to try to stop it from infecting the others. The logic of a £10 TB vaccine, is that you can protect a badger or a valuable beef animal or a productive high-yield milker for their whole life; without the upset of either culling or financial embarrassment at Barclays. The government agreement that the NFU will be able to shoot 100,000 badgers will leave huge parts of the UK with no badgers; will make no serious difference to the 4,000 cattle which are shot under farm TB management rules and regulations.

The effective end of badger protection laws?

The NFU’s appalling and bloody massacre of thousands of healthy badgers will start very soon it seems. Of course, the Conservatives who run DEFRA seem to think their job is to pursue their own narrow-minded pro-hunt interests against the environment. We have seen numerous examples of soft-treatment of grouse-moor owners and shabby treatment of wildlife (buzzards, eagles, hen harriers, gulls, corvids, etc). The badger is a case in point. The issue with the two “trial” badger culls is NOT to cut bovine TB (as all the dead ones will be burnt before they are TB tested). The badger cull is not about science or research or learning, it is simply a new bloodsport brought in under the cover of assessing whether they can kill enough badgers over a six-week long shooting festival. Less than 1% of dead badgers will be checked to see whether they had instant humane deaths, so many badgers will die long painful inhumane deaths. If the hunter’s guns can inflict enough casualties on the protected badger populations of Somerset and Gloucestershire; they will roll out a plan across all or most of England’s counties over the next 25 years. To all intents and purposes, the badger cull signals the effective end of the various laws which protects the badger from persecution.

An e-petition sought to change the government policy on the killing of badgers. DEFRA have ignored this – the most popular such e-petition ever – arrogantly dismissing the views of nearly 270,000 UK voters, simply because 10,000 farmers want to use the badger as a scapegoat. As well, and possibly of greater importance, are the views of the top scientists from the UK and overseas. There is no peer-reviewed scientific paper which states that culling badgers will make a major impact on the reduction in TB in cattle. If you have a government which point-blank refuses to listen to every top scientist on one of the most important science-problems in animal health, you’ve got to question not just their ability to govern, but also their ability to think.

The “failed” NFU injunction

The NFU has rightly been subject to some criticism. They responded to this criticism so “well” they went to court to try to get an injunction banning any-one from protesting in Somerset or Gloucestershire and several other counties. In effect their injunction was so watered down by the Judge in the High Court, all it really says is that badger cull protesters should not break the law as it already existed before the cull was agreed. So, if you are a lawful protestor, you have no worries from the NFU or the Police, as injunctions are not a police matter. Even if you are what some people claim might be an “unlawful” protestor, do you have genuine worries in the real world? People skilled in the arts of sabbing hunts seem to think that the badger cull protests will not be badly affected by the NFU injunction anyway. Our advice, for what it’s worth, is that the hunt sabs have the skills, experience and the legal know-how on their side. Any-one wanting to protest the badger cull in a direct action type of manner would be well advised to join the hunt sabs organisations, buy the clothing and the kit; and know what to do and what to say in what circumstances. Despite the rabid rantings of the pro-hunt animal abusers and twitter trolls; every single hunt sab we have ever met prides themselves on their non-violent stance. They do not want to meet violence with violence; they just want to see animals live their wild or domestic lives free from torture, hunting and abuse.

But how do we move forward in the protest against the badger cull?

We have done everything we can as law-abiding citizens to persuade the government to change their minds and follow the people and the science to vaccinate rather than exterminate. We have twice written to our local (twice married, but against gay marriage) MP, Craig Whitaker. His “copy and paste” idiotic response suggests he is a man who shows every sign of being outwitted by a blunt pencil. Owen Paterson, David Heath and Richard Benyon are all pro-hunt; are have all been put in place by the grouse-shooting stag-hunting fox-hunting Prime Minister. So long as Cameron is in the office; the Etonians, aristocrats and the idiotic backbench wannabes will pursue their own interests, even though 65,000,000 plebs disagree with them. Given that this government don’t listen, and we can’t afford NFU-style bribes or Monsanto-style jobs for “after politics”, all we can say is that we are done with them as voters. In exactly the same way that the Conservatives lost “Yorkshire” when they shut down their coal mines, for a generation they will lose the votes of all the people who think that wildlife is for watching not for hunting or shooting.

Dr Brian May – Brock God

We continue to be big supporters of the scientist, rock guitarist and national treasure Brian May and his campaigning for the future of badgers and farming, but the e-petition will close soon; and the government will ignore it unless the NFU sign it. Initially we thought he might be a celebrity distraction, but he has campaigned very well and shown up the NFU for what they are on every occasion they have had the balls to debate with him. Odd how the NFU don’t seem to want to debate with him any more… Brian, you are a hero for wildlife – we would hope that your work for wildlife will be seen as your best work to date.

Organics is “Dead Badger” Milk Nowadays

We continue to be big supporters of the Badger Trust, Secret World, the Badger Protection League, Save Me, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Hunt Sabs Association and their many county groups, as well as the RSPCA. As “wildlife” people we have a huge affinity with all wildlife groups and we are grateful for the full support of the many raptor-watch groups; and the quiet (if not whispering) support of the WWT and the RSPB. The one group we thought would be in favour of wildlife was the Soil Association; but they have allowed their big-business supporters to poison the organic movement, so that organic dairy milk may as well be “dead badger” milk nowadays.

Peaceful Protests?

For any-one who has not been on a protest, I would strongly recommend doing so, as you meet some great people and you can show your support for wildlife and shout out about how the government is so very badly wrong. Organisations like the Secret World, Badger Trust, Somerset Badger Patrol and others organise peaceful protests, suitable for kids and critters, young and old and everyone from the gentle grannie through to the experienced sabber. When you retire, I’m sure you’d rather have a story to tell that you did something real, rather than grumbling about it being a shame; so please be out there.

If you can’t get to the culling fields of Somerset and Gloucestershire, you can help people who can by supporting them to buy things like fuel for vehicles, torches, mobile phones and so on.

We try to list the various support funds on our web-site on this page – they do change from time to time:

Direct Action is the Answer Now

Importantly though, the bloody badger cull is now imminent, so what is needed NOW is direct action in the woodlands and fields of England to save the lives of badgers.

There are so many direct action groups now, that the NFU had to include the term “unknown persons” in their injunction to try to include them all.

One great organisation to support are the Hunt Saboteurs Association; as they celebrate 50 years of being in the fields to stop blood sports, such as fox hunting, hare coursing and badger culling. It is worth checking them out on their website and making use of their Donate button or links.

It is also worth checking for your local county Hunt Sabs groups (; as well as field-based events, they still need help with fund raising too. You don’t need to dress in “combats” and walk across field to help the Hunt Sabs if that’s not your “thing”.

Do be sure to check out their legal advice page though. Not that we are suggesting you might be a lawbreaker or anything, but it is as well to read about and understand why “hunt sabs” do and say the things they do and why they dress in a certain way. Essentially sabbing is predominantly a team-work activity, so it’s as well to know the rules your friends are following.

If you are focussed only on the badger cull right now, please check out the tweets from and the webpages of and  as they are very active in the cull zones. Contrary to what the NFUs apologists say, lots of people support @freebrocks – in fact they have more supporters than the NFU do, which is kind of ironic. Following @freebrocks on twitter is good as they are good at communicating information which is both timely and accurate; and less prone to misinterpretation within the froth of false rumours placed by some trolls and hunt-supporters.

Like we have said, we believe the time for the polite politics is coming to a close; and the time for direct action to save badgers from the guns is imminent. The government will not listen; so it is up to the people of this country to go into the fields and the woodlands to rescue as many badgers from the inhumanity of the farmer’s guns as physically possible.


Following the publication of this article, we have made a £50 donation to the FreedaBrocks fuel fund, so they can get sabs and experienced activists into the badger cull zones.

We would urge everyone to take whatever direct or indirect action they feel comfortable with; even if it’s “just” a donation.

Badger Culling or Vaccination to solve a disease problem in cattle?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

As far back as 2008 Professor Christl Donnelly ( published an artle about the effects of culling or vaccinating badgers and how this might affect the levels of bovine TB infections in cattle.The article appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology – a peer-reviewed scientific journal. For those of you who might like to read it in full, you can get all the detail from :

A summary of the article suggests two important things:

  •  culling badgers causes them to alter their social structure and their ranging behaviour, with the risk that there could be new or additional contacts between badgers and cattle, potentially increasing TB infection rates. In other words, the perturbation hypothesis, as to why culling badgers can make bovine TB worse in cattle.
  • vaccinating badgers so they do not get bovine TB infections (from cattle or other species), does not disturb their social hierarchy or their ranging behaviour. In other words, vaccinating badgers reduces the density of infectious badgers, without affecting their behaviour.

So far as we are concerned, given a choice between either culling or vaccinating, the choice should be to vaccinate; as this improves the situation for badgers; and reduces the risks for cattle. There is also the benefit, that there is less TB in the environment to affect other wildlife species. In these troubled times, there will be much less need for a visible police presence in the badger killing areas; as most animal rights extremists would not be getting involved in violence to stop a vaccination scheme. Likewise peaceful protesters may be more inclined to buy from farms and businesses in cull areas; rather than boycotting them.

Anyway, coming back to the report, Professor Donnelly is some-one who has an awesome knowledge of both badgers AND in the transmission of infectious diseases. She was also a key member of the panel which managed the science surrounding the RBCT (aka the £50 million Krebs badger killing experiment). And, she is a Professor at Imperial College – one of the world’s leading scientific institutions. She is undoutedly one of the key people whose opinions and advice should be sought, listened to and relied upon by policy makers. Just to remind everyone, the whole RBCT TEAM stated that culling badgers is NOT effective in controlling bovine TB in cattle.

Coming up towards the end of June 2012, is a court case, in which the Badger Trust are seeking judicial review of DEFRAs decision to cull badgers across wide areas of England. The Badger Trust say the three stooges who run DEFRA  (farmer Caroline Spelman, farmer Jim Paice and farmer Richard Benyon), have got the science wrong. The NFU (National Farmers Union) seem to be getting sick and tired of DEFRA not removing the Protection of Badgers Act; and want to kill badgers using any excuse they can come up with. Of course, killing 25,000 cattle every year due to the policy details surrounding bovine TB, is a disaster for them and for farm incomes; and for hard-done-to taxpayers who compensate farmers and agri-businesses who keep finding themselves with bTB infections. But, 250,000 cattle die before they should, due to other preventable conditions, such as BVD, lameness and so on. Bovine TB is bad for a farmer, and it’s not the only disease they farmers should be worried about; but it the only one they can scapegoat badgers for.

The NFU are clearly so worried that farmers will not want to get involved in killing thousands of badgers that they have already said they will effectively bankroll the badger culling campaign. They are clearly worried that their “agents” in DEFRA will lose the court case on the grounds that it is not economic or that the non-peer-reviewed NFU “science” will not hold up to critical review.

Indeed, Peter Kendall, president of the NFU has already been doing the rounds slagging off “so called experts with PhD’s” – don’t know whether he thinking of Professor Donnelly or Dr Brian May or some-one else. No matter, Professor Donnelly has been called as a witness at the court case; where she could be asked about whether badger culling will do the things the NFU want or whether a badger cull will make no real difference. We can’t yet know the detail what she will be asked, or what she will reply, or indeed whether the judge will have enough of a scientific background to be able to understand the science and hopefully come to the conclusion that vaccination would always be better than culling.

What does seem likely is that Professor Donnelly has the potential to be a key scientific witness; whose influence on the outcome of the case will be immense. As for Peter Kendall, he has been so obsessed with killing badgers, he refuses to think about any Plan B. If the NFU “lose”, the NFU should metaphorically do to him what they want to do to badgers. In our view, he is the latest of the NFU leaders to fail their members. If DEFRA lose, the only way forward for the three farmers who are currently running the show has to be a swift and decisive return to back benches; where they would have ample time to contemplate how they have all continued to let down enviromentalists, farmers and all of us who are involved in some small way in rural affairs.

It’s going to be an interesting court case, that’s for sure…

Want to see badgers near to you?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Today’s blog talks about one of the key questions we are often asked on, namely: How can we get some badgers to come and live near us?

Over the past few days, I have been in email contact with a friend of mine who works in the badger business – or more accurately – for an excellent badger charity. For want of a better nickname, let’s call my friend “Secret Andy”. Over the years, I have done a bit of work with Secret Andy – helping to move a family of badgers from under a road and a house to a safer location in a new nearby woodland. I also worked with Secret Andy on a badger release project in the North of England. When I say “worked together”, I really mean he did 99% of the work and I did 99% of the write-up for a newsletter report!

Secret Andy has a dream job, which involves caring for baby badgers at one of the world’s most important badger rescue centres; assembling them into perfect new families, and finding them homes in the wild. However, like any dream job it is not a job for the fearful or the faint-hearted.

Often the badgers that come into Secret Andy’s care are orphaned cubs, whose mothers have been killed in road traffic accidents in the first few weeks and months of the year. The biggest killer of badgers in the UK is the motor vehicle; and this takes a huge toll on the badger population. Every year baby cubs, yearlings and adults are mown down on the roads and railways – perhaps as many as 50,000 badgers die on the roads every year. Although every accident has a victim, the worst tragedy of all is when a nursing mother (called a sow) is killed. Her young cubs, still dependent on her milk will remain in or near their sett waiting and crying patiently for her non-return. Over a number of days, they will become ever hungrier and more dehydrated; and increasingly at risk of predation by foxes and terriers which have been slipped off the lead by the small proportion of dog-owners who are classed as dim-witted.

In some cases, older badger cubs may be seen at or near the entrance to the sett, where they may be observed by keen badger watchers and perhaps even rescued if they know a dead nursing sow has been found recently. Cubs only a few weeks old will remain underground – their eyes still not open and their little legs still not strong enough to emerge from their underground birthplace and into the hands of a potential rescuer. Far far too many badgers cubs die underground in this way. It is amazing that so many orphaned badger cubs are rescued every year; and that so many find themselves placed into the care provided by Secret Andy and his many co-workers and volunteers.

Once at the rescue centre, the little orphans are assessed for their state of health and fed and watered – sometimes as often as every hour – by a band of dedicated and increasingly tired workers and volunteers. Badger cubs are very cute little critters and every-one who comes into close contact with one soon becomes very attached to them. The cubs are assessed in terms of whereabouts in the country they came from and their ages, sizes and sexes; and placed into new families. The idea is that the badgers can be raised as a proper family unit which can be released back into the freedom of the countryside as a family unit; and ideally into the same county that they came from. Over the space of several weeks, the badger cubs get used to their human carers and their new families and generally do well in the rescue centre.

The next stage for the badger cubs is that they need to be removed from the company of their human carers so they can become wild again. Of course, when they are on the hourly feeds; the cubs do get used to human company and close contact. However, this is a bad idea for release-badgers as their cousins who have always lived in the wild remain very wary of humans – often with very good reason. At the rescue centre, the badgers are placed into special pens where they can be observed and fed remotely, but they do not generally see humans except in the most unusual circumstances. I guess you could see this as “tough love”, but it’s probably an awful lot tougher on the human carers than the badgers.

Being a world-class badger rescue centre, the badgers are treated according to a detailed agreed protocol. This procotol means that the badgers are assessed for their state of health at various points in their lives to make sure that they remain as healthly viable animals. Although you might want to do ALL you can to treat an animal; living in the wild is a tough job and you have a responsibility to make sure that every animal can make the grade. Sadly a few animals are too poorly to be in with a fighting chance in the wild and not all survive.

The other key test when working with badgers which are to be released into the countryside is the issue of bovine tuberculosis (i.e. the form of TB which cattle spread to one another, to other animals and, potentially, any-one who is reckless enough to still drink unpasteurised cows milk). Many people are unsure of the relationship between the bovine TB you get in cows and the bovine TB you then get in badgers, deer, cats, rats, mice, moles, earthworms, llamas, goats and people. Some of the people who are unsure as to how bovine TB works work for DEFRA – some of the others work for the National Farmers Union (NFU) and some are still Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government (though God knows why after the debacle over the Welsh badger cull in Wales). Let’s just none of these confused people end up working in the NHS!

Anyway, back to the care and the science and the responsibility of Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre. ALL their badgers are tested to see whether they are carrying the bovine TB infection. This isn’t the sort of crappy cheap-as-chips unreliable test that the government uses too infrequently on too few cows; this is a proper scientific test which is both expensive and highly-accurate. If the test shows that the badger has or even might have the TB infection it is put to sleep and a post-mortem done and various bits of the animal’s tissue cultured to see if the poor badger actually had TB. Needless to say, although a very small % of badgers do show that they have been exposed to TB by the test, virtually none actually have TB in reality in their bodies. A few weeks later, the badgers are tested again to see if they have picked up the TB. And, a few weeks after that, the badgers are tested once more. At each stage, any badger which shows an undesirable result is put to sleep, post mortemed and cultured. Virtually no badgers have TB on post mortem or on culture. Full Stop. So there we have it, badgers released according to the badger procol are tested THREE times to make sure that they do not carry the bovine TB infection. Badgers which are released according to the badger protocol, do not have bovine (cattle) TB. The suggestion that they do is put about by certain members and spin-doctors associated with the No Flaming Use brigade. They should be ashamed they have to lie to what they think is clearly a gullible public.

Importantly, though, there is relatively new development known as the badger vaccine. This is based on the BCG vaccine that protected much of the human world from TB, but it has now been adapted for badgers. Seems to be a brilliant idea on the face of it and well worth pursuing. Given the choice of a low-speed injection with a needle and high-speed injection with a hunting rifle, I know which one I’d choose. Badgers which have already passed the three high-tech bovine TB tests are now being given the badger vaccine as yet another safeguard against the flow of the TB infection around wildlife and the environment.

As an aside, I sometimes have a strange dream where I wonder whether any-one might have thought of inventing some sort of vaccine which farmers could give to their cattle to stop them getting the bovine TB infection and therefore stop passing their bovine TB to other cattle and other species! Clever scientists have won Nobel prizes for work like this! Businessmen have even won houses and yachts in Monaco for similar work!

Back in the real world , if all this work with the badgers seems like hard work it is; although it must count as one of the most rewarding jobs in the world when things go right.

The next part of the operation seems like the easy bit – take the nearly-grown-up family of badgers into the countryside and release them! If it were only that simple!!

A bit like the residents of Royston Vasey, badgers, as a species, remain in a very small very local area throughout all their lives – they are not wide-ranging like deer or cattle trucks for example. Partly because badgers remain within a mile or so of where they were born, badger clans (families) are highly territorial. In other words, they have their own main underground home (called a sett) and an area around it which they will defend with great vigour. The very last thing that a clan of badgers wants is another clan being released into their home area. If this were to happen, the badgers would fight for dominance which could result in serious injuries and even deaths. Eventually, the weakest surviving badgers would be driven away by the stronger ones; but only after a huge amount of suffering.

For this reason, when new badger familes are released; they usually go into an area of countryside which provides them with food, shelter and safety; and is a decent distance away from other badger clans. One of the really, really difficult bits of Secret Andy’s job is finding these vital areas. You might find, for example, that there are loads of suitable badger foods and there are some great woodlands for them to shelter and make their homes in, but the site is too near where badger baiters operate or it’s too near a busy road. The problem of finding suitable release sites for new badger families is an annual problem. With every new summer/autumn there are several new badger familes which NEED a home in the countryside so they can live their natural wild lives. With every successful release of a new family; there is the immense joy, pride and delight on the part of the badgers rescuers of another family returned to the wild. And, there is the thought, that we now need to find another great badger release site to replace the one that has just been used.

Actually a great deal of work goes into finding suitable badger release sites. Secret Andy does a lot of the surveying work and the detailed suitability assessment; but much of this is in close collaboration with badger groups and other animal rescue organisations.  The landowner is the key contact, as he or she needs to give their permission. After that neighbours may be asked for their opinions and whether they might want to get involved. Overall though, the process is very much a colloborative one with people working together with patience and understanding, and in a few cases gentle pursuasion.

Having been involved in one of these badger releases, I can say that this was more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding than anything else I did that year. I can heartily recomend any-one to get involved in work like this- it will certainly be a damn sight more interesting than going to another set of lectures or boring business meetings or wasting money on frippery in the shopping centre or whatever.

As a landowner or a long-term tenant, you don’t necessarily need to own a massive area of land – if you have a few acres/hectares in which a temporary straw-bale or a permanent artificial badger sett could be built that might be enough – especially if surrounding areas provide a good habitat for badgers in terms of shelter, food and safety. Landowners are increasingly seeing themselves not just as owners of the land but as custodians of the wildlife and the ecology of the land.

Of course, in contacting Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre you are embarking on a dual process of hope and discovery. It may be that, at this precise moment, the circumstances are not right or the environment around you is not rich enough in terms of woodlands, fields and biodiversity; but the environment is a long-term thing. Getting the ball rolling in the right direction is something you can start now, even if it is a year or two before everything falls into place. It’s certainly worth making a phone call as you have nothing to lose and a new badger family has everything to gain. If you or a neighbour might be interested in seeing badgers on your land, I would urge you to contact Secret Andy to see how you can help one another to help Britain’s badgrs live their wild lives.

You can contact Andy at Secret World on 01278 783250.

Simon Flory

Badger Specialist

Badger Baiting Evidence man beaten up!

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The BBC are reporting the worrying news that a Northern Ireland man has been very badly beaten up because he passed information about their badger baiting activities to the authorities. See the following BBC news story for more details:

As a badger specialist, I’m acutely aware of the risks getting involved monitoring badger baiting activities and being seen to report this to the Police and others. Badger baiters are some of the most violent criminal scum in the country – many of whom has criminal records for violence. Importantly, such violence is not always limited to violence against other gang members or people who “grass them up”. Some badger baiters have convictions for family-related violence against wives and girlfriends; so they are not nice people to live or work with either.

If you are involved in wildlife protection or monitoring, it’s worth taking some time to think about what the risks are if you monitor badger setts, birds nests and the habitats of other protected species. Of course, you might have a fall or a trip; so you need to tell someone where you are going and when you are due back so they know to get help if you don’t get back at the agreed time. But, what about the electronic trail many people leave on social/networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Think about it for a minute! If a badger baiter or an egg collector went to prison because of the evidence you gave, could they find you? What information can they find out by looking you up on Twitter or Facebook? Can they find out your home address or where you work? Can they find out what you look like or what car you drive or where your children live? Are you being a bit “careless” with your Facebook privacy settings. As a test, try Googling yourself to see what a badger baiter could find out about you – it might be a lot more than you realise!

The good news about monitoring badger baiters is that there is now some VERY sophisticated technology available which can get reliable evidence without the need to risk human involvement. It is possible to use soil samples to prove that a badger digger was at a specific crime scene. It is possible to show that a single animal hair in his van or 4*4 comes from a badger and that the badger lived in the sett which was dug. Most importantly, modern CCTV cameras are so tiny they can be concealed to make them totally invisible. They record excellent quality audio and daylight/night-vision video; and beam the information via a wireless link to a computer using internet technology.

In past years, badger baiters have been able to rely on crimes going undetected in the remote country areas. Modern technology is becoming cheaper to install and more reliable; which makes it more likely that badger baiters will be caught and convicted. They need to remember that you can’t intimidate a covert CCTV camera or a forensics lab not to give evidence against you!

Simon Flory

Badger Specialist