The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is supporting badger culls in England after Defra moved to make the killing more humane and effective.
The Government body was repsonding to a report on the first year of culling from its Independent Expert Panel (IEP).
The IEP report, published in April, found that the first year of culling failed to meet criteria for effectiveness (in terms of the number of badgers removed) and that the method of controlled shooting had failed to meet the criteria for humaneness.
The BVA welcomed the report and called on Defra to implement all of the IEP’s recommendations fully.
The vets’ association has remained in constant dialogue with Defra and met with the then Secretary of State Owen Paterson, chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens and other Defra officials to seek clarification on Defra’s proposals, as well as calling for robust monitoring and collation of results and independent analysis and audit by a non-governmental body.
Defra has confirmed a number of changes to its plans, in particular:
Shotguns would not be used for controlled shooting.
Contractor selection, training and assessment would be enhanced.
The number of field observations of shooting and number of post-mortem examinations of badgers would be in line with that carried out in year one.
Real-time information would ensure a better distribution of effort and that poor performing marksmen would be removed from the field.
In addition Defra has committed to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out during the cull.
A spokesman for the BVA said he was satisfied that the appointment of such an auditor would addresse many of the group’s original concerns.
However, it will continue to call upon the new Secretary of State Liz Truss to put in place independent analysis in order to give confidence to the wider public.
BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “BVA has always maintained that we could only support the use of controlled shooting as a method to cull badgers if it was found to be humane, effective and safe.
“We supported the findings of the Independent Expert Panel and called on Defra to implement the recommendations fully.
“We therefore welcome Defra’s proposals to improve humaneness and effectiveness in light of the IEP report, and we have been pleased how far Defra has moved towards BVA’s position, in particular by ensuring a robust and independent audit is in place.
“It is essential that Defra gets this right to allow the veterinary profession to have confidence that controlled shooting can be carried out humanely and effectively.
“We continue to call upon the Secretary of State to put in place independent analysis of the second year of culling to give confidence to the wider public.
“Badger culling is a necessary part of a comprehensive bovine TB eradication strategy that also includes strict cattle measures and vaccination. Culling remains a hugely emotive issue but we must tackle the disease in both cattle and wildlife.
“Scientific evidence supports the use of targeted, humane badger culling to achieve a reduction in the disease in cattle.
“I’m proud that the veterinary profession has had such a significant influence on Defra’s position and we will continue to engage with the Government to ensure the pilot culls are humane and effective.”