Badger cull: latest news

17th May 2010

The contracting firm – update

An email has been circulated by the Badger Trust to its Directors, Affiliated Groups and Additional Contacts. It has now been widely circulated, and states:

‘We have recently had it confirmed that Thomson Ecology is the company which accepted the Welsh Assembly Government sett surveying contract within the cull area. We had anonymous communications, but we have now had confirmation that this is the case. This goes against one of their core company values, which is scientific integrity. We are told that many of the staff of Thomson Ecology are deeply unhappy that their company is involved in implementing the mass slaughter of a protected species against the wishes of many landowners in the “killing fields” area. We have no quarrel with the employees but we do question the motives of their management who are apparently prepared to act against their company ethics for purely financial reasons.’

Calls to Thomson Ecology offices have been met with a solid ‘no comment’ reaction. Cull Watch was told that Thomson Ecology cannot comment on any work that they do for any clients. This doesn’t stop them, though, from commenting about lots of other clients and jobs, past and present, on their website. Cull Watch was given the WAG 0800 number – like everybody else that has contacted them so far.

Action

Please contact its directors, John Roger Mundy, Richard William Arnold and Nancy Elizabeth Thomson on 01483 466000 to complain politely about their involvement in the badger cull.

Sett surveys – update

Surveys continue to be tracked by Cull Watchers. Elin Jones stated in the Assembly on May 5th that ‘there is a minority of landowners who are ’reluctant to see this work happening on their land and we are pursuing communication with those landowners.’ Last week, landowners were rung by the sett surveyors and told that they were in the area, and could arrive in ten minutes (accompanied by a WAG official armed with a laptop and Blackberry). This is clearly what passes for ‘pursuing communication’!

Timing of the cull – update

Sett surveys have been scheduled for the week beginning May 10th, and also on May 18th. We do not know if these surveys will run concurrently with killing. If they do, it is yet another sign that WAG has jettisoned science in favour of appeasement – perturbation will occur within the area to an even greater extent than it will surely do already.

Landowners have been told that the killing will take place in a ‘low key’ fashion at 3-4 am. 

The Government has given legal permission to anonymous armed agents to enter property, against the will of the owner, in the small hours of the morning, to shoot wildlife.

The social effects of the cull

It was useful that the plight of Pembrokeshire residents, increasingly suffering draconian restrictions on their right to property and conscience, will be publicised shortly by the national media. Reports continue to be received of residents losing sleep, and suffering intolerable stress and anxiety. One described ‘waking every morning with a feeling of dread’. Such ill health is directly due to WAG’s policy to cull badgers.

It is also clear that many feel unable to publicly voice their objections due to a climate of fear and intimidation that exists in the area. When WAG states, without any precedent or explanation, that ‘there is a risk of individuals trying to impede the operation which may result in injury or even death’, this is hardly surprising. The strategy is to paint peaceful protest against an unscientific violent act of wildlife slaughter as ‘extreme activism’.

Ms Jones also produced the beautifully oxymoronic statement: ‘balanced and informed communication is essential in order to put everyone in the communities of west Wales at ease in the knowledge that this is a piece of work that has to be done’ – so much for balance!

There is evidence that tourism operators in the county are losing business directly as a result of the cull. There are as yet unconfirmed rumours that the police ordered the removal of anti-cull material from a shop display.

Action update

Cull Watchers continue to visit and support landowners in the area.

Please note that we need cull area residents to speak out about the violation of their rights. We have been assured by national television that your anonymity can be preserved if that is what you wish.

25th April 2010

Update from Pembrokeshire Against the Cull

As is widely known, the Badger Trust recently lost their Judicial Review challenge to the Assembly’s cull plans. The Judge found in favour of WAG on all four of the main legal objections the Badger Trust had highlighted. In particular, he agreed with WAG that a 6% reduction in confirmed bovine TB herd breakdowns was “substantial”.

The Assembly never stopped its cull preparations pending the Judicial Review outcome. And, as to who knew what and when, consider the following. The judgement was announced on the morning of April 16th. Elin Jones told the BBC ‘we need to read and digest this verdict’. But as she spoke, letters were already in the post to landowners in the cull area – dated April 16th!

These letters state:

‘Contractors working on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government will continue to survey the area for badger activity… The Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009 allows authorised persons the power to enter any premises, except a dwelling house, in connection with treating badgers with vaccine or destroying badgers…. Contractors acting on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government will carry official photographic identification and certificates of authorisation.
‘Subject to badger setts being identified on your land, contractors undertaking the containment and despatch of badgers will contact you directly before they commence trapping. We will begin once the Badger Sett Survey is complete, final delivery arrangements are in place, and we have taken advice from wildlife experts on when the closed season ends.’

‘Containment’ means luring badgers into a cage with their favourite food – peanuts – and trapping them overnight. ‘Despatch’ means bundling the animals into an execution cage and shooting them in the head. The contractors will not be named, and the company they work for is also anonymous. There is no way, therefore, for landowners to check for themselves as to their background, training, previous use of firearms etc. There is a very useful checklist of questions that landowners may find useful at: http://www.pembrokeshireagainstthecull.org.uk/CHECKLIST_FOR_CONTRACTOR_VISITS.pdf

The Sett Survey Contractors

Contractors drive unmarked white long wheelbase Land Rovers, with a light on top. The vehicle registrations are blocked by WAG ‘for security reasons’. Their passes quote the Official Secrets Act.

Via a telephone call to their supervisors, PAC now knows the following about them:

  • They are a ‘large’ environmental survey company with a number of offices.
  • One supervisor identified herself as a ‘senior ecologist’. The other refused to give a job title.
  • They are only told the evening before of the next day’s visits. They telephone to check the same day, to see if the landowner wants to be there.

Despite this assurance, however, surveyors are still turning up unannounced on objectors’ land, often saying that they are lost. One landowner asked to see their map, and found that two of her fields were wrongly assigned. Objectors’ land was identified as ‘no-go’ areas prior to the Judicial Review – we do not know if this is still the case.

Contractors have been spotted all round the cull area, from Cemaes Head and Moylegrove in the north, through Nevern, Eglwyswrw, and Brynberian down to Boncath towards the south. There are at least three teams of survey contractors.

The Killing Fields – Update

The southern boundary of the cull area passes about two miles north of Glandwr. It does not include Efailwen as previously thought. It does however include Carn Ingli Common and some of the Gwaun Valley. The western boundary is precisely located at Pen-lan Uchaf Gardens – where a sett survey vehicle was sighted last week.

The Assembly is now including at least two farms in the cull area north of the river Teifi – in complete disregard of scientific advice, and contrary to statements by the Chief Vet that the area would be bounded by major rivers. These farms are Coedmore (opposite Cilgerran Castle), and Hafod (2km downstream from Llechryd).

The map graphic is being redrawn and will appear shortly.

Timing of the Cull – Update

As of April 25th, we believe that the actual killing will not start at the beginning of May. Animal Health has told a local landowner that they are still surveying, and that a cull is ‘unlikely for a few more weeks’. The staff of Countryside Council for Wales have had a briefing last week which suggested a similar timescale. But we cannot be off our guard – the Assembly’s public statements often do not match the reality.

The Social Effects of the Cull

Cull Watch can clearly see that these plans are making many Pembrokeshire landowners deeply unhappy. Some are considering moving out of the area, while others are suffering anxiety or depressive reactions. Yet others are experiencing a wide variety of physical symptoms, or worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. Many of the residents are elderly, yet the Assembly continues to send letters like that of April 16th, and allows ‘surly’ contractors to visit them in gangs.

Action Update

Cull Watch is now in the process of conducting visits to landowners, to offer support and make initial contact. But we need more information, and people on the ground.

Objectors in the cull area must now confront the reality of sett survey visits, and make some choices. Our information suggests that known objectors may receive special visits from WAG employees, possibly the contractors and also the police. Cull Watch can support with advice and updates on what others are doing in the same situation – and if necessary, a physical presence to document the encounter.

It is important to realise that contractors have been instructed to leave immediately if any attempt is made to photograph them. This is not illegal.

With the cull imminent, we also want to put maximum pressure on the Assembly from the outset. We must not allow badgers to be killed away from the glare of publicity in some hidden corner of a field. If despite all our efforts, killing goes ahead, we must publicise it widely with a view to maximum shame for its advocates, and to enable citizens to decide democratically who to vote for, where to holiday and what products to buy.

Cull Watch supporters are right now out in the killing fields, in cars, on horseback, and on foot along rights of way, with notebooks, cameras and binoculars, watching their local patch. But we need more of you! We need to know as soon as the cages appear. Please get in touch if you are able to help.

12th March 2010

Sett Surveying Begins

Sett survey work is now underway, with teams of Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) contractors active in the area. A combination of official secrecy and unprecedented, restrictive legislation is already exposing local residents to upsetting security risks. Cull Watch has received the following information to date:

  • The contractors are operating in teams of up to four people. They are of university student age or thereabouts.
  • They arrive unannounced in unmarked white Landrovers, despite landowners in the area being advised by WAG that contractors should contact them directly prior to commencing surveys.
  • The ID cards they provide carry only photos and no names. On the cards there is a number to ring (0800 496 1439) to confirm the holders ‘identity number’.
  • They have been surveying in the Cemaes Head area to the north of Poppit Sands and in the region of Bridell to the south side of Cardigan.

Dairy Farmers: doing their bit?

We have received information that the ‘biosecurity measures’ that were supposed to be mandatory as part of the package of measures to eradicate TB, are, in fact, entirely voluntary on the part of farmers. For example, it is ‘recommended’ that ‘cattle do not graze pasture for two months after slurry/ manure/ dirty water has been applied on it’ – but this is not enforced.

The ‘cattle control measures’, we are informed, also amount to next to nothing. Cattle can still be moved in or out of the cull area provided they have had an (unreliable) TB test, and within a 60 day testing window.

Even more shockingly, notification of movements will be left to the farmers themselves. There will be no post-movement testing. Cattle will still be able to go to markets and return if unsold, with a quarantine period of just six days. Bulls can still be taken round farms in the cull area. There will be no increase in the number of clear TB tests ‘reactor’ cows require before rejoining a herd.

For farmers in the cull area, there will be an annual vet visit to discuss farm health and biosecurity, but no other monitoring or checks. It is business as usual for the farmers.

So, WAG’s promised ‘extra measures’ – which supposedly make the Welsh badger cull different from the RBCT – really amount to only the shortening of the TB testing interval from one year to six months. The ‘pilot area’ is little more than a wildlife massacre zone.