South Antrim MLA speaks out against Northern Ireland badger cull

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ulster Wildlife, and Northern Ireland Badger Group have joined forces to launch a petition in opposition to DAERA’s recently proposed badger cull as part of its bovine TB eradication strategy.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 3:41 pm

The proposals were announced last month by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots MLA as part of a consultation process aimed at eradicating bovine TB.

Speaking on July 16, the Lagan Valley representative said: “To eradicate TB, all factors which contribute to the spread and maintenance of the disease in the environment must be addressed through a holistic approach.

“I know that wildlife, and badgers in particular, are a significant factor in the maintenance of bTB in cattle. In the consultation document, therefore, I am proposing a wildlife intervention strategy to address this.

John Blair MLA, Ken Brundle (Ulster Wildlife Chairman), Peter Clarke (Northern Ireland Badger Group) and Colleen Tinnelly (USPCA Development Manager).

“It is essential that the overall bTB infection load in badgers is reduced, but once this has been achieved it is my intention to move as quickly as possible to a vaccination-only approach.

“There is an urgent need to take action to ensure we realise the potential of both a healthy cattle and wildlife population in Northern Ireland. ”

The proposals have faced criticism from a number of groups including the USPCA, Ulster Wildlife and the Northern Ireland Badger Group.

Speaking at the launch of the multi-agency petition, South Antrim Alliance MLA and Chair of the All Party Group on Animal Welfare, John Blair said: “Whilst I am supportive of many of the measures proposed by DAERA to combat the disease, I strongly oppose intensive badger culling, which would lead to the destruction of protected wildlife on an unprecedented scale.

“There is little to no evidence to suggest that an indiscriminate cull of badgers in Northern Ireland would be an effective approach to controlling the spread of the disease.

“I am, also, disappointed more ethical alternatives to controlling bovine TB, in both the badger and cattle populations in Northern Ireland, such as cattle vaccination and ‘Test–Vaccinate–Remove’ (TVR) have not been proposed.

“I urge the public to add their voice to this campaign to Stop the Badger Cull by signing the petition.”

Ken Brundle, Chair of Ulster Wildlife, added: “At a time when Northern Ireland is the most nature-depleted part of the UK, to propose removing thousands of this keystone species from the countryside is completely unacceptable. There are alternatives to the indiscriminate killing of Bovine TB-free badgers, primarily through taking a badger vaccination-led approach.”

Brendan Mullan, Chief Executive of the USPCA, stated: “Four out of five badgers in Northern Ireland are healthy and there is therefore no justification for an indiscriminate cull. The slaughter of healthy badgers as outlined in the consultation document is unjustifiable and morally wrong.

“If a wildlife intervention is to be part of the strategy, it should follow a test, vaccinate or remove approach, which has been shown by DAERA’s own research project to be effective.”

Mike Rendle from the NI Badger Group commented, “Culling is an outdated practice with an unfounded promise of results.

“The Westminster government’s own Independent Expert Panel branded the recent culls in England ‘inhumane and ineffective’. We are appealing to the public to join us in challenging the cull of healthy badgers, as outlined in the consultation document, by signing our petition today and also sharing their views via the online consultation.”

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Click here to read Bakery puts East Antrim MLA’s face on biscuits

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