Badger Trust letters to Caroline Spelman

The Badger Trust has sent two letters to Caroline Spelman.  The first letter was sent on Monday 15th August 2011 and was in respect of the Radio 4 programme “The Report”, aired on 4th August 2011. The second letter was sent on Tuesday 16th August 2011 and relates to an article printed in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald on 23rd July 2011.  The article was brought to their attention a few days ago. They have today issued the text of the letters as Press Releases which can be seen below.

Mrs. Caroline SpelmanSecretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

15th August 2011.

Dear Mrs. Spelman,

On Thursday 4th August 2011 the BBC ran a programme on Radio 4 called “The Report” which went out at 8.00 p.m. The main subject of the programme was the proposed badger cull trial and bTB. During the course of that programme the illegal killing of badgers was mentioned twice. The programme was made by BBC Manchester and produced by Gayle Champion.

Initially Jan Rowe, a farmer from the Cheltenham area, admitted that an unofficial cull was taking place although he did not have much more to say on the subject. However, another farmer from Devon, whom the BBC had promised not to name, gave quite specific details of how farmers in Devon were taking petrol engines to “sick setts” and pumping exhaust fumes into these setts. When the fumes were seeping out of all the sett entrances the badgers were deemed to have gone to sleep, in other words had died through carbon monoxide poisoning. Whilst the farmer admitted being present when this was happening, he stated he did not take part but commented that this unofficial cull was set to continue throughout England and Wales. He clearly knew that killing badgers in this manner is illegal. We can only assume that a “sick sett” is one where a farmer has made the arbitrary decision that badgers infected with bTB are present inside the sett. We all know that such a decision is not possible to make from merely viewing the sett or badgers associated with it.

It is clear that these illegal acts are being carried out on a routine basis and that the BBC has some knowledge regarding where it is happening and who the perpetrators are, at least in some parts of Devon. We respectfully request that you instigate an investigation into this programme in an effort to identify the offenders and put a stop to this illegal practice. These people are criminals and should be prosecuted. They are endangering not only their own livelihoods but also those of their neighbours as random local activity such as this will spread bTB and if allowed to continue will clearly inflate the figures produced by your department.

Yours sincerely,
David Williams,Chairman.


16th August 2011.

Dear Mrs. Spelman,

On 23rd July 2011, an article in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald written by MP Rory Stewart in his fortnightly column “The Word from Westminster”, states that “it is still possible, it seems, for a farmer to link a Cumbrian field to a field in Gloucestershire as a single holding, and thus get round the necessity for pre-movement testing at all”. Later, he suggests that the linking of holdings more than 30 miles apart should be prevented.

May I ask you as a matter of urgency to confirm whether or not this interpretation of a single holding is correct and if so, how many such holdings exist within England and Wales? It is quite obvious that if cattle could be moved from e.g,.Gloucestershire to Cumbria without being tested prior to movement, then the spread of bTB caused by cattle to cattle transmission is probably a certainty.

The Badger Trust has concerns about other practices referred to in Mr. Stewart’s article, such as dealers leaving cattle for a short time in a non-infected parish and then selling them in the auction mart as though they had always been in a clean area. He quite rightly states that auction marts know from the cow’s passport where it has been all its life, but this generally only reveals the last movement. As the MP for Penrith and the Border, Mr. Stewart’s main concern is for the health of herds in Cumbria but all marts should be called upon to reveal whether the cow has been in an infected area, not in the last six days but in the last six months.

We are seriously concerned that the spread of bTB is being made worse by the flouting of regulations that have been put in place to improve matters. The assertions made by Mr. Stewart in his article have nothing to do with badgers but everything to do with bad farming practices.I look forward to your early reply.

Yours sincerely,
David Williams,Chairman.


3 Responses to “Badger Trust letters to Caroline Spelman

  1. These are just a couple of bad practices. I live near Newcastle Emlyn and the movement of stock past my house which is down a small lane is remarkable. I wonder why it occurs late in the evening and at weekends? I spend a lot of time in my garden and I can see the road from my living room at most of the day it is very quiet with no cattle movement. I’ve even seen cattle walked down this lane from one farm to another. I understood all movements were licenced. Am I wrong?

  2. In Wales, the Sole Occupancy Authorities (where a farmer can link remote part of their land as a single farm in terms of cattle movement control) is limited to a maximum of 16km). Within the IAA, all SOAs were cancelled in 2010, meaning that each non-continuous land holding is considered as a separate holding. Whole herd testing is compulsory at six monthly intervals throughout Wales, and bTB free status is required for transfers between holdings. Caroline Spelman has no authority in Wales, where regulation and control is by the Welsh Government. As far as the time of day when cattle pass your lane, that would depend on the milking routine, when the herd is ‘settled’, and suspect that evenings is the best time when the lane is free of traffic. I don’t think the cows have a notion of ‘weekend’. Farming is a 24/7 operation. I suggest helping the farmer and your garden, by collecting some manure off the lane.

  3. The cattle controls decribed above have helped reduce cattle slaughtered due to Bovine tb in West Wales by over 50 % in two years without a badger cull. Keep up the good work WG and show Spelman how its done.