Letter: Badger supporters can’t face inconvenient truth on wildlife

I am so tired of seeing Brian May and his fellow badger fans being lauded as ‘champions of wildlife’ when in fact anyone who understands and cares about British wildlife can see what a devastating effect the huge increase in badger numbers has had on many other species.

The badger is our largest and most common animal predator – he is top of the heap.

And it is an inconvenient truth that he has a voracious appetite for anything that comes his way; ground-nesting birds’ eggs and nestlings, hedgehogs, bumble bee nests – all doubtless much tastier than the slugs he is supposed to live on, and all totally unable to defend themselves against his powerful jaws. The result is, of course, the greatest ecological disaster of modern times – there is no other way to describe the complete wipeout of all Shropshire’s curlew and lapwing, which are poignantly listed in my 1981 bird book as ‘widespread, locally common’.

Of course the badger’s fans will tell you that this is due to modern farming and climate change.

Can any of them show me the effect of modern farming methods in the last 20 years on the wild moorlands of the Shropshire/Radnorshire borders?

And as for climate change – well, a wonderful balance of nature thrived all down the centuries, with many natural climate cycles – but only because of our ancestors’ understanding of the necessity of predator control.

Yes, of course the badger looks incredibly sweet and cuddly, especially on wildlife programmes with nice plinkity-plonk music in the background. Doubtless however his cuteness is entirely lost on the hedgehog which is about to be eaten alive.

If the hedgehogs and skylarks and curlews had a voice, they’d be crying out for a badger cull. It is utterly shameful that we are ignoring them.

Liz Henderson

Craven Arms

Comments for: "Letter: Badger supporters can’t face inconvenient truth on wildlife"

Dr Andrew Kelly

The relationships between predators and prey are complex and tend to cycle over time. It is too simplistic to say that badgers have caused the decline of the species mentioned. There is simply no evidence to support this. Loss of habitat and changes in farming practices over the years have been shown to be responsible for declines in species like skylarks, curlew and lapwing. Climate change IS a real threat with a third of ALL species potentially at risk. The paper at the following link gives a good account of predator / prey relationships.

http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/dynamics-of-predation-13229468

Giles Bradshaw

Dr Kelly is talking nonsense. The randomised Badger Culling Trials provided valuable experimental data on the relation ship between badgers and hedgehogs. In cull areas hedgehog numbers increased 100% in areas of the same habitat but where there was no badger culling hedgehog numbers fell by 30%.

That IS evidence of a relationship.

When Dr Kelly says there is no evidence what he really means is that he will not accept any of the evidence for ideological reasons.

This is the man who recently claimed that detailed defra analysis on the proportion of BTB outbreaks on farms attributed to badgers was not based on evidence. That's utter nonsense he simply will not accept any evidence that suggests conclusions contrary to his views.

Dr Andrew Kelly

Thanks Giles - I will just point out that the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species agrees with me. They say that while badgers do eat hogs, the biggest threat to hogs is loss of habitat, lack of food resources and the overuse of pesticides.

Giles Bradshaw

Hi Andrew - how do you explain the 100% increase in hedgehog numbers in RBCT areas as compared to the 30% decline elsewhere? Surely you bare aware of the principle of a controlled experiment where you vary one variable and keep others constant in order to assess the impact of that variable. That is a basic scientific method is it not? So if we vary the number of badgers and keep other variables constant and we see an increase in badger numbers compared to a continued decline in the control would you not accept that as evidence that badgers do indeed affect hedgehog numbers.

I am not claiming that agricultural practices, habitat loss &c do not also haver an effect. However the data from the RBCT is pretty conclusive that badgers are at least one cause is that not the case?

It seems to me that you just deny any evidence that does not suit your particular cause. That is not a scientific approach.

In a similar way when defra published a letter giving various figures for the contribution of badgers to BTB breakdowns you tweeted that it was not based on evidence. However it clearly was. The statistician had derived the figures from real data.

Patrick Cosgrove

Dear Giles, I've been trying to persuade DEFRA to monitor hedgehog numbers in the future cull areas as I tend to favour the theory that badgers are largely responsible, but I didn't know of the data you quoted.. Do you have a link, please?

Dr Andrew Kelly

Patrick, a new report shows that 60% of British wildlife has declined. Hedgehogs are just one species that has declined. The report says 'Hedgehogs have declined by around a third since the millennium. Intensive agriculture and urban development have fragmented habitats and gardeners are now being encouraged to make space for the mammals.'

Badgers are NOT to blame.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22609000

Giles Bradshaw

Hi Patrick I cannot find that paper :( However this is another giving clear evidence that there is a link between badger populations and hedgehog numbers.

Of course other factors will be at play too. No one is denying that. However note how Dr Kelly just fails to address or acknowledge the existence of this evidence. That's not science - it's prejudice.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00078.x/abstract

Giles Bradshaw

Hi Patrick please also see here:

http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/badger-control-consequences.pdf

"During the RBCT, hedgehog population density increased by

more than 100% in the proactive cull areas, in comparison to the no‐cull control areas where they

experienced a slight decline (Defra 2007)."

also here http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20071104143302/http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/research/summary/zf0531.htm

You might also want to look at Doncaster, C.P.(1992) Testing the role ofintraguild predation in regulating hedgehog

populations. Proceedings ofthe Royal Society of London B, 249, 113‐117.

Doncaster, C.P.(1994) Factorsregulating local variationsin abundance:field tests on

hedgehogs.Oikos, 69, 182‐192.

Dr Andrew Kelly

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22609000 'Hedgehogs have declined by around a third since the millennium. Intensive agriculture and urban development have fragmented habitats'.

There is no doubt that it is loss of habitat, food resources and use of pesticides that is impacting on hedgehog populations, not badgers.

Liz Henderson

Dr Kelly, if you go to the website of the RSPB, click on 'document library' and click on 'Northern Ireland Reserve Notes' you will find a fascinating report from the frontline, so to speak - when the RSPB introduced a badger-proof fence, sunk deep into the ground, 13 pairs of lapwing raised 23 young. This is in spite of 'the exceptionally wet weather experienced through most of the 2012 breeding season.'

And might I ask you why a hungry badger would NOT eat a clutch of lapwing eggs, or a nest of baby hedgehogs, if he came across it on his travels?

Dr Andrew Kelly

I didn't say that badgers don't eat hogs and ground nesting birds. What I said was that the relationships between predators and prey are complex. Hedgehogs also eat ground-nesting birds as we have seen in the Hebrides where they were introduced.

Niall

Blimey , after a rant and character assassination like that i think we should maybe see if you have bulk shares in a high end shaving brush company !

taff, shropshire

Cull the badgers, cull the foxes kill the crows, buzzards, sparrow hawks I hear you cry. when we all know the inconvent truth is that it is ignorant human beings that should be at the top of the list,

Are we going to cull the feral farm cats which it has been said carry bovine TB?

Roger

I take each of your points and agree with them. That however is not the point of the activists.

What they are saying it that it is not necessary to wipe out the badger because they spread bovine TB which you do not mention at all.

Controlling the population of a top end predator by a selective cull may be OK but not the total slaughter of a species.

hedghog

No one is trying to wipe out the badger, cull means reduce the numbers not exterminate. Mr May culled deer to manage a healthy herd . 30 yrs of population explosion by badgers means they are unbalancing nature by their need to feed themselves. As for tb it is tested for in cattle but the major source (badgers) is free running and not tested/restricted or managed

joe

Nobody is wanting to wipe out badgers totally! The idea is to clear areas where there is tb and try and get that area free of tb (which includes clearing tb infected cattle also) and then let badgers to repopulate the area at sustainable numbers. This was the method that was used in the past and WAS working, tb cases were low until badgers were made a protected species. I repeat nobody wants to wipe out badgers!

mark skipper

yea they need culling and now before its to late for the countryside so lets do it right now...

diane cullimore

And your scientific evidence for this is??

Devilschair

Would that mean no more badgers killed and thrown onto sides of roads miles from sets (to give the impression of road-kill) then?

Devilschair

I would of course state this is 'allegedly' - people of Shropshire don't do this kind of thing do they?

Emma

Liz, Roger and Mark, those fighting against the badger cull are not asking to ignore bovine TB. They are asking for the more humane method of vaccination to be used instead of culling. Scientific evidence proves the impact of culling on the reduction of bovine TB is very low which makes it very hard to justify the killing of thousands of badgers. Vaccination is more humane and has a proven higher success rate. It is the method currently being used in Wales and the method animal welfare groups are asking to be used in England.

Animal welfare charities including the RSPCA, HSI and PETA along with a huge number of highly acclaimed scientists, politicians, farmers and the public are against the badger cull. It is time for the government to listen to scientific evidence and call off the cull off before it's too late. Bovine TB is an issue that needs to be tackled but through other methods.

For anyone wanting to show their support against the cull, please find the petition here:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

Port Hill Boy

So Ms Henderson are you advocating that because an animal kills others it should be eradicated? Yes, badgers eat hedgehogs, who in turn eat slugs, so lets get rid of them all.

Tough news for safari tours though, once we've got rid of lions. After all they eat other species.

hedgehog

Phb

Do lions cause tb too ????

Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting

What a load of Nonsense...

This is all unsupported conjecture. Yes badgers are omnivores, but their largest by volume prey items are invertebrates.

The RSPB are the group who said climate change and modern farming methods are the main culprits. Although of course for all we know you may be better positioned to talk on the predation of ground nesting birds than them, along the same lines, the Hedgehog Trust have stated cars and slug pellets are a more serious problem than badgers, again you may know more about Erinaceomorpha than them as well.

I suspect however, that this is merely another NFU/DEFRA sponsored propaganda, or merely you are so blinkered that you can't be bothered to read the science on the subject.

Liz Henderson

Well, GABS, the RSPB have had spectacular success in their Lower Lough Erne Reserve, in Northern Ireland, with badger-proof fencing - behind which both lapwing and curlew have successfully raised chicks - in spite of last year's exceptionally wet weather. Quite rightly they take predator control very seriously indeed nowadays.

I am nothing to do with either DEFRA or the NFU, merely an ageing countrywoman who is in despair at the ruination of the countryside and its much-loved little creatures thanks to the rise and rise of the badger population. And who has also listened in horror to the awful child-like screams of a hedgehog being eaten alive by a badger.

Ruth

Hi Roger,Total slaughter of aspecies is not being proposed, Aiming for 80% cull in a few areas of high badger population & high bTB

Mercy Full

Have a word with yourself, Ms Henderson...no-one even knew how many badgers there were until last year when Defra finally got enough fingers and toes lined up to count them yet again (not sure where the sabotaged Fera hair traps feature in this..?) and now that it is known that there were more than was previously thought they are conveniently being scapegoated not only for bTB in cattle but now also the decline in the numbers of curlews, lapwings and hedgehogs.

Doing a hatchet job on the badger is not going to work- all the science is against the cull and the british public is against the cull, the vote in parliament went against the cull.

If the pilot culls go ahead, scapegoating the badgers for the results of the foul practices of the dairy industry then hundreds of protestors will go to the West Country and take non-violent direct action to save lives. The policing costs will be astronomical.

Let's see then if vaccination still seems like too expensive an option.

rum lad

Forget science and predictions my uneducated friend. Remember, we cant even 'predict' the weather for tomorrow accurately. look back through history and records and you will see a correlation between badger numbers and disease within their population. No one is saying they should be eradicated but the sheer numbers of this illusive creature makes it unfeasible to trap, restrain, treat, mark and release them back into the countryside. and relating to your own comment Mercy Full, indeed, no one knew how many badgers there were untill last year. You are correct there, the number previousley predicted (using population growth patterns etc)proved to be VASTLY underestimating the actual numbers, once again proving the point that we should not rely on some scientific predictions, but instead on hard facts, PROVEN by history

Jamie

Am I missing something here rum lad :-

"indeed, no one knew how many badgers there were untill last year"

...

"look back through history and records and you will see a correlation between badger numbers and disease within their population"

... if we didn't know how many there were until last year and you say predictions were "vastly" inaccurate, then how can you trust "historical" records to measure disease in badgers based on population? In what way were we better at judging the numbers in the past?

rum lad

The point i'm trying to get across is that when they were contemplating the cull last year, they discovered that there was MANY more badgers than they anticipated and I feel that it is quite a coincidence how such a large population has ended up being stricken by a disease passed on by close contact with eachother

Jamie

"... ended up being stricken by a disease passed on by close contact with each other" :-

TB is passed both ways though, cattle to badgers and badgers to cattle, isn't it? So how can we be sure that the increase is badger to badger, not cattle to badger? I agree that if there are more badgers there are likely to be more infected, but is it a higher percentage?

I'm just trying to be open minded, as many times in the past science has proved that what seems intuitively right is actually wrong (eg lightening usually travels up, not down). So far the science seems to suggest that a cull would be counter productive.

rum lad

You are correct there, TB is passed both ways, both from badger to cattle, and cattle to badger. However, TB infected cattle are hastily dealt with, i'm sure an infected cattle herd is subjected to 60day testing intervals, and any 'reactor' or even 'inconclusive' result is removed from the herd straight away so as to prevent further infection. This is continued until a herd of cattle can achieve (2, I believe) clear TB tests. And If Cattle are to be moved around the country, ie through livestock markets, where they are bought by other farmers, then said cattle must be from a 'clean' herd (as described before) and just to be sure they have no TB, they must be tested again and be kept away from any other cattle prior to being sold at the market.

Unfortunately, the badger is not subjected to such rigorous testing regimes and as such, an infected animal (which may be showing no physical signs of the disease) is free to roam wherever it pleases. This would allow one badger to infect multiple badgers before it finally succumbs to the TB in some farmers field where it is (for want of a better word) excreting the disease even after death for any other unfortunate animal to pick up. It only takes one infected and by this stage weak/ill badger roaming around (as they are rejected from the rest of their sett by the other badgers it once called family who are not yet showing signs of the disease) to stray onto another-possibly clean badger setts territory, only to be fended off by the extremely territorial 'clean' badger to pass on their TB either by saliva (during the stand off/fight) where the previously clean badger, having fought off the assailant, jubilantly returns to his sett and family only to share with them a ticking time bomb, so to speak. Or simply through the water droplets it leaves as it breathes and drools on the previously clean territory as it scurries off, leaving the TB microorganism in its wake to be ingested by any animal that then goes on to graze/sniff that area of ground. This is how one infected badger will infect multiple badgers and thus radically increase the percentage of sick badgers in the population.

diane cullimore

Never read such ignorant drivel in all my life!As anyone who has a sensible head on their shoulders knows..THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EFFIDENCE THAT A BADGER CULL WILL WORK.It could make it worse.It has nothing to do with how cute or cuddly they are!

JOHN JONES

I agree, There are NO badgers on the Isle of Man and yet they have B.TB. end of story.

Phil Thompson

What a lot of rot.

Did Liz write all of that in crayon?

rum lad

A very grown up and educated response there Phil Thompson. would you like a rusk with your milk?!

Debbie Harris

How arrogant to think that we have the right to 'control' every living thing on the planet and that the ecosystem could not manage without our interference and management. We also think we are so knowledgeable and understanding of the whole complex biodiversity of nature that we can 'choose' which animal we see fit to cull (slaughter).

Bella

Errr Liz, what about the human predator, you know, the one really at the top? What about our voracious appetite for cows that's contributing to the demise of certain species that would not occur naturally if nature, who really knows best, was left to her own devices? Or is your logic species specific? This is clearly not a scientific response , I know that, but then we all know the real science does not support your argument anyway Liz.

Taff, good point, let's bring cats into this. Have you ever tried messing with cat lovers and their agencies? That would shut this disgraceful practice down quicker.

Richie Bee

Some Humans are so Arrogant...

WE DO NOT OWN THIS PLANET, WE SHARE IT !

We do not have the Right to Cull anything...

This Person is VERY COLD & HEARTLESS

Man Hath No Preeminence Above a Beast, for all is Vanity

Superstar Tradesman

@Richie Bee.

I love comments the likes of yours. They say nothing, they rarely offer solution yet they make me wonder about the writer & the world they live in....or would like to live in!

Jim

And what purpose did your comment serve other than to belittle and insult?

Superstar Tradesman

It works like this Jim. Richie B is sloganeering, not really commenting. He is clearly on the side of man & beast equality (nice) & I would like to here more from him. I would like to hear how man & beast should live side by side while one tastes good and the other is hungry. I would like to understand how he would control the balance of predator & prey but Richie simply does not expand = so what is his point?

Should anybody shout aloud “I want this” or “I don’t like that” or similar it is reasonable to expect him or her to say why otherwise only half a story is delivered.

I find it amusing that when driven to make a comment that the opportunity to do so is half taken.

Belittling? No. Insulting? No. Enquiring? Yes.

If Richie B feels either insulted or belittled then I offer unreserved apology to him, as that was not the intention.

There Jim, you can rest easy now until you feel like being the comment cop again.

Gloucester Girl

I get so fed up with people with vested interests having a go at people who are just standing up against ignorance, greed and violence against wildlife !

If you had eyes to see you would know that ALL animals have a right to live and that they ALL feel pain and loss when family members are killed. You would also see that the biggest threat to our environment is man - there are too many of US and too many doing stupid , short-sighted and destructive things. It is time we learnt from past mistakes, not keep doing what hasn't worked in the past!

LISTEN to the science, LISTEN to the people who know and care about the ecosystem - stop poisoning, shooting and 'accidentally' killing foxes and birds of prey and MAYBE we can start getting somewhere. To say 80% of the population of this country want to STOP THE CULL just because badgers are cute is insulting to say the least!

NigelM

I live five minutes walk from a massive country park and in thirty years have never seen a badger here, either by day or night. I used to watch and feed hedgehogs in my garden, now I have not seen one for over two years. So there is no correlation between the two species where I am.

In March it was reported that our butterfly population was devastated last year due to 2012 being the wettest ever year recorded in England, indeed four of the top five wettest years recorded in this country have occurred since the year 2000. Climate of this nature cannot fail to have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Perhaps the badgers caused this as well ? Or perhaps we should take the blinkers off and look in the mirror for the culprit rather than blaming another species as a scapegoat for our failings.

"Occams razor" - the simplest explanation is the best one, and the simplest explanation is that humans are the villains of this piece.

Patricia Marshall

Well said Nigel, look in the mirror indeed. From bees to badgers, we kill em all with our selfish idea that we rule the world. I have NEVER seen a badger, alive or dead. They are shy, elusive, nocturnal animals who live mainly on slugs and worms. They keep their homes tidy and put their bedding out to air. Many badger families will be killed if this cull goes ahead. Others will be terrified or maimed. Most of the dead will be healthy and I read somewhere that the bodies wont even be examined to see if the animals actually had bTB in the first place. Perhaps the spread in cattle is to do with the concentrations of the herds and the number of animals. This is how bTB is mainly spread in deer.

hedgehog

Try looking out at night with a torch there are literally hundreds running around . 1983 if you saw a dead one it was rare today if you don't see one it's rare .

stormkettle

Does the writer of this piece really care for wildlife , or is this article just an excuse to try and demonise the badger.

Tony Phillips

It does make one wonder how all the cute things survived before man came along. It actually runs fine without us. Of course the real problem with predators ( or more correctly mesopredators) such as foxes, badgers, stoats etc., is the lack of top (apex) predators , which control and limit the distribution of these mesopredators. I am of course talking about lynx and wolf.

Britain claims to be a nation of wildlife lovers, yet in the last two years we have seen proposed culls of badgers, buzzards. foxes, crows, the Tay beavers and wild boar. Apologies if I omit anything. Gamekeepers continue to wage war on birds of prey .As a nation we in reality are terified of wildlife and understand little of the complexities of nature. We value certain wildlife, such as songbirds, above other wildlife, even though we do not understand their connections. Yet we are quick enough to rail at other countries to save their tigers for instance. ( Is there are more voracious killer of sweet little deer?) How dare we preach to these countries about their wildlife? We should hang our heads in shame.

hedgehog

So it's fine to cull thousands of cows but not one badger that does have/carry a disease . What does everyone think a badger lives on are there enough worms. Badgers do raid farms for easy food thus bringing infection in , a cow has only to put up an immunity to tb and she will react to the test and be killed . VACCINATION is not proven at all , time will tell if it works but as there are many strains of tb odds are against it . Some of the people above repeat misleading facts or just pr for animal rights . Apply cattle measures to badgers and then we will see how many are culled , as vaccinated badgers are not tagged or got electronic id how reliable are the figures . The above writers seem to know little of cattle or the disease just playing politics like Gloucester council .

Kevin

Brian May is a genuine fella who strongly believes in what he preaches perhaps those who disagree should do so with valid argument rather than just slagging off the individual who after all has achieved so much more with hard work and pure talent. Jealousy is a very destructive trait..........

I have to say Owen Paterson is a bit of a c0ck and I bet he cannot play guitar?.......

I'm sure I will get blasted for this but my Granddad was a Shropshire Game Keeper and whilst I don't agree with everything Brian May says I do at least respect his educated opinion.....

hedgehog

Brian May , guitarist and astronomer not an expert on animal disease .He is a dedicated animal lover he is only interested in saving badgers not in the eradication of the TB disease . We could give a fig about him or his success (good for him) but how would he feel if we should tell him how to play his guitar . He is not affected by all the measures and laws placed on farmers who keep cattle only to see their efforts wasted by a free running disease carrier who has no boundaries or tests.

Kevin

Hedgehog yet another ignorant deluded idiot. Just read the proper facts not Mr Patterson's propaganda...

Sorry but It doesn't matter what I think I just quite simply admire anyone who stands up for what they believe in while accepting a load of ignorant idiots will disrespect them. Well done Mr May & Captain Sensible voices of reason....

Torture me

I'm just an animal you see

I'm the slap for your lap

Not upset

You know pets don't really feel

Torture me

Why don't you carve my body up

Throw me into a pot

Make it hot

And you'll have a lovely meal

Torture me

'Cause you're the beauty I'm the beast

For your feast

Weddings, barmisphahs and all

Torture me

Take my skin and eat my flesh

'Cause it's fresh

Boil or roast will be a ball

And if I can suffer more

And if I can suffer more

I'll improve your life for sure

And if I can suffer more

And if I can suffer more

And if I whimper just ignore me

THE DAMNED 1983

hedgehog

Wow, what a grown up response space cadet . tb effects me not you , stick to your songs and let the grown ups deal with the health issues

hedgehog

" Another one bites the dust" is that a good song for badgers . Hopefully if you being smart with songs

Anne Thomson

Farmer pretending to be scientists thats cannot be good READ THE SCIENCE IT"S AS BLACK AND WHITE AS THE BADGER.

Such ignorance in a letter. We aren't defending badgers because they are cute we are defending them because they are not guilty. You only have to look to southern ireland to see it doenst work - read the figures not the spin. 6,900 badger strangled last years, £3.2million in costs and 55 less reactors than the year before killed the same number of badgers and saw an increase. BTB has always fluctuated .

FACT -intensive farming is where th bTB hotspots are

FACT - increased testing shows increased reactors

ANYONE CAN SEE THAT SHOWS BTB IS ENDEMIC IN THE HERD

Ian Boyde the chief scientist clearly doesn't want a cull along with the entire scientific community . The cull is unethical - maybe a word not always understood , it is also unscientific and IT WONT WORK.

The best possible way is that 84% of the problem will remain after 9 years of culling.

So that means all farmers have 100% of the TB they have now for the next 9 years plus the average increase on top. After that they may see a fall of 16% off the increase. SO BTB INCREASES EVERY YEAR and what about perturbation. Hard boundaries are not roads or rivers - badger swim and cross road each night.

Apex predators, yes the badgers are our apex predators because people have shot all the animals above them and hunted them to extinction in the UK .

What about the farms surrounding the zone they saw an instant increase.

Badgers don't wipe out hedgehogs see here http://ptes.org/index.php?news=212 (similar statement on BHPS too) farmers do that by wiping out slugs and beetles with pesticide.

Farmers will be worse off and very unpopular and they will have more btb than ever.

hedgehog

Again16% what a pile of .... This was the lowest figure quoted the expected one is nearer 65-75% but Brian demanded exact figures which no one can give. Welsh vaccine trials have caused perturbation this is proven

James Wrigley

Sir David Attenborough talks sense on this issue and I will take his view and to leave the badgers alone.

NigelM

I'd like to point out to Liz Henderson that in 2007 Brian May was also involved in a protest against the culling of hedgehogs on the Scottish isles of Uist. A Freedom-Of-Information request in 2009 revealed that a total of 695 hedgehogs were culled on the islands by Scottish Natural Heritage during the period 2003-2006 as it was claimed that they ate the eggs of ground-nesting birds on the islands such as lapwing, redshank and ring plover. The hedgehog cull was stopped in 2007 in favour of relocation largely thanks to the efforts of Dr May and other celebrities bringing it to public attention. I wonder if Ms Henderson was as outspoken as Dr May when this travesty was taking place ?

Bill Nuttall

Like most things in Tory Britain it all comes down to profit, if badgers didn,t cost farmers money and profit then there would be no talk of a cull and badgers could merrily chomp through whatever other wildlife they fancied in order to survive as humans do.

hedgehog

Put your thousands of your money on the line and then bitch about farmers . Politics have nothing to do with tb , if it did 15 yrs of donations to the Labour party by animal rights groups prevented a cull sooner . Go check the donors register to see for yourselves .

Liz Henderson

Interesting that no-one can point me in the direction of any curlews and lapwings left in Shropshire. I used to see three pairs of curlews in one field just above Clun, twenty years ago, and this wasn't a rare sight at all.

The RSPB realises how effective it is to keep badgers away from ground-nesting birds. If you google Lower Lough Earne and badger-proof fence, you'll find a fascinating report on the fabulous success of breeding lapwing once their nests had been protected by a mesh apron, sunk deep into the ground to stop badgers digging under. 13 pairs of lapwing raised 23 young, in spite of the exceptionally wet weather.

zztopfan

And your proof that local badgers killed your curlews is what, exactly? Did they leave a note? Did they manage to write their names or did they just leave a paw print?

rum lad

I'm afraid zztopfann that I've witnessed a massive decline in ground nesting birds in an area that is deffinately LESS intensively farmed than it was 20 or so years ago when we used to enjoy the sight of the lapwings curlews and hedgehogs on a regular basis out here in the countryside despite the farming practices, because, although it may come as a suprise to you, farmers actually care for our countryside (they and their ancestors have lived there for....well...ever) and wildlife that inhabit it and feel that ALL species deserve a fair chance at prospiration. Surely the fact that if you google Lower loughe earne badger proof fence is fair evidence that it has been researched that badgers are the species that are responsible for the drastic decline in ground nesting birds, especially given that their numbers thrived once the predatory factor was eliminated

NigelM

Interesting also that you have not replied to my post concerning Uist. Whilst I applaud the RSPB fencing initiative at Lower Lough Erne, I would point out that any fence capable of keeping out a badger will be equally successful with a hedgehog which are actually quite a common species in Nothern Ireland. Scottish National Heritage surveys reported that the lapwing population on South Uist dropped 30% from 1995-2002 due to egg predation by hedgehogs and there are no records of fox or badger populations on the islands. So it is a fact that both badgers and hedgehogs eat birds eggs, but you seem to have an issue with the former but not the latter.

rum lad

Note a correlation between the dwindling numbers of hedgehogs AND ground nesting birds on the uk mainland. I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that theres another entity to this situation...maybey one that's expanding and is literally out of control. Let me just check through wildlife population records and inform you of the (unexpectedly) massive increase in badger numbers compared to the vast decline in the ground nesting birds AND hedgehogs.

NigelM

If you wish to discuss the reduction in the hedgehog population, why not mention the 2011 UK census figures that showed a total of over 27 million cars on our roads, an increase of 3.4 million over the past decade, and ask how many hedgehogs are killed by these ?

rum lad

Sure, the amount of cars has gone up significantly and there are unfortunate hedgehog casualties on our roads. But cars don't actively hunt hedgehogs in their own domain and as such don't pose a realistic threat to them.

Liz Henderson

And I do think the badger's cute appearance has a HUGE influence in the support he gets. Just imagine if he looked like a great big brown sewer rat. Can you imagine Brian May cuddling one of them? Can't see a 'Large Rat Trust' gaining many members, or 'Team Large Rat' being popular!

Jim

So it's all because it look cute and nothing to do with the evidence that shows badger culls are not the best way to curb the spread of tb. Hmmmm.

hedgehog

Badgers are part of the solution, 30 yrs of cattle controls wasted because of badgers reinfecting clean herds . How do you explain closed herds ( no movements on farms ) going down with tb . Also didn't know so many laymen where scientists either Anne or should that be racists who want to kill only cows .

Jim

Was this reply to my comment. I'd clearly not claimed to be a scientist or accused anybody of racism. Get a grip.

hedgehog

Scientist was reply to Anne Thomson comment if you read it fully .

Liz Henderson

Nigel, yes, I remember the problems with the hedgehogs on Uist, and the upset it caused. The thing is though, that twenty five years ago we had masses of hedgehogs round here and we also had masses of curlew and lapwing. I remember being thrilled to see a live badger for the first time - I think in the early nineties. And shortly afterwards I saw my first empty hedgehog skin, and gradually the hedgehogs disappeared, followed by the ground-nesting birds.

I have seen two live hedgehogs in the last ten years. I heard one forlorn curlew, two years ago - since then nothing. I can't begin to tell you how much the curlews mean to me - I have always lived in the lovely wild places where they used to flourish, and it tears me apart that they are gone.

I'm being insulted here for blaming it all on the badgers. Fair enough.... but can anyone explain why a badger wouldn't eat a nestful of curlew eggs, if it was under his nose? Or a nest of baby hedgehogs? Do you honestly believe that he would walk past and leave them alone? We have had a massive rise in badger numbers here - they've got to eat something.

NigelM

Whilst I have no doubt that badgers are in part responsible, seagulls, corvids and even grey squirrels are also known to be ravenous consumers of both eggs and chicks. The magpie and crow populations of the UK have more than doubled over the past few decades. I myself have witnessed a new-born lamb with it's eyes torn out by crows, and coot and moorhen chicks being actively stalked by magpies. Only last week I watched helplessly as a mallard brood was reduced from ten ducklings to a single member in the space of 48 hours by seagull attacks. Labelling badgers as the sole villain of the piece is hardly fair judgement.

Amanda Wills

CULL the ignorant I say, never heard such drivel, most people on here have got the facts right. SAVE THE BADGER.

Liz Henderson

Amanda Wills, thank you for such a wonderfully well thought out argument. It adds such a lot to this interesting debate.

So what you are suggesting is that people like me who love curlews and lapwing and hedgehogs more than huge numbers of badgers, should be culled?

john

May as well kill all wildlife since they feed off each other- known as the food chain.Does this writer not realise this process is known as nature?

rum lad

Oh my god, I'm just reading some of these comments, and can not believe some of the terribly misinformed words people are typing! Forget your 'scientific reports' which are concocted by so called experts, sat at their desks for the majority of their 9-5 working lives. History speaks for itself. The badger has been in this country for centuries, as have cattle. And in the past, the 2 species have shared the same habitat in relative harmony, where healthy badger numbers used to be controlled (and also cattle numbers, but we wont talk about the farming issue as it gets you activists worked up!) Since badgers became protected their numbers have exploded, and there IS scientific evidence to prove this if your shallowness requires it. Unfortunately, with a ballooning in any population comes the prevalence of disease - in this case, TB. So the numbers of that population NEED to be controlled (not exterminated) but brought back to a realistic HEALTHY amount. An example of an unhealthy, over crowded population that springs to mind is to Just look back in history to the great plague in London, and the amount of people that diedhorrible painful deaths then, purely because the area was over populated (and hygiene not sufficient to combat disease) now compare the human numbers then to the (proven) badger numbers now. So I'm afraid that until badgers learn the benefits of anti-bacterial scrub, or atleast soap, then their numbers need to be controlled for their own benefit as well as the rest of the wildlife that we have in our glorious countryside and then maybey we can once again enjoy a BALANCE of wildlife and the benefits it brings.

Huw Peach

What is your view of mega dairies, rum lad?

rum lad

Well Huw Peach, if the animals are kept in a clean, healthy environment where they are happy and well looked after then I wouldn't see a huge problem.

Liz Henderson

Exactly, Rum Lad, nicely put. It is so sad that the badgerists have such a blinkered view that they believe that a 'balance of nature' consists of a huge population of badgers - and nothing else. None of them seem remotely interested in the ground-nesting birds, or the hedgehogs.

So what they want us to pass on to future generations is a silent land populated by increasingly unhealthy badgers......... I am old enough to remember the rich balance we used to have when everything could thrive and flourish - including a small and healthy badger population.

As I've said before - I was thrilled to see my first live badger. I really used to like them - but I spend my life in the countryside and it grieves me so much to see how their over-abundance has led to the devastation of so many other little ones.

Jamie

Just a few points:

The population of London is now over 8,000,000. At the time of the Black Death (1347) it was less than 50,000. The plague devastated even small villages, it did not need dense populations, hence it’s rapid spread (one year) from in/near China to here.

I have dealt with a few of those 9-5 experts. Perhaps they were not a representative sample, as they were very difficult to get hold of due to spending nearly all their time out “in the field”. See how many naturalists you can find who actually like spending time behind a desk (think hens teeth).

Where are these accurate, detailed historical records of badger numbers and percentages of diseased badgers? Did they take blood samples?

By definition “scientific reports” are “… intended to be as objective as possible in order to reduce biased interpretations of results.” So, yes, lets forget about those and just argue our own corner without worrying about those pesky rigorous methods!

One of those 9-5 experts wrote to the Guardian with reference to the effect of badgers on bird numbers :-

"Got to pick you up on that. I've been doing survey work for the BTO for over 10 years in an area that used to have an abundant wader population, including Lapwing. They're still here, but numbers returning to breed each year are fewer and breeding success is also down. There are specific problems at the wintering sites that have nothing to do with badger populations, and the decline in breeding success on the summer sites is due largely to habitat loss, climate change, and concomitant changes to invertebrate food supply, which appears to have all but collapsed in some areas.

One survey area that I cover does still contain healthy wader pops, along with an unusually high concentration of badger setts. It's an upland area, with numerous small hill farms. Sheep and beef cattle are the predominant livestock. Bovine TB - in either cattle or badgers - is almost non-existent, possibly because the kind of large-scale cattle movements common in the southern UK just don't happen up here. The research into breeding birds populations is on-going."

rum lad

Precisely, the plague did not need particularly dense populations but it still tore through the population, as the badger population is also anything but dense as their population carrying capacity simply wont allow it. However, once the carrying capacity is breached they can be classed as over crowded, and that's when things go wrong.

It would be interesting to know where about in the UK the expert who wrote into the guardian was carrying out his/her research. I am presuming it is out of breathing distance from a diseased area, imagine spilling a honey like substance (I'm plucking this out of the air to use as an example) on a surface, and watching as it slowly creeps along the surface, engulfing whatever lies in its path. Perhaps this expert had better enjoy the remaining months, maybe even couple of years before that area too is engulfed as the TB spreads through the land.

I wonder what was the problem the lapwings had on the wintering site, i note it was claimed to be nothing to do with badgers, however, no other reason was given? Obviously not a hungry badger in the depths of winter trying to find an easy meal - a mystery there perhaps

Toby

The fact is 35,000 cows were needlessly killed due to Tb last year. It has cost the industry £500million and due to cost a further 1 billion in next ten years at the rate of increase that is currently going on. In order to feed the appetite of our nation, unless you don't eat beef or drink milk ( p.s. remember also that gelatine which is in sweets is from cows), you don't wear leather....the list goes on!!, then we need to do something about the Tb rather than stand around and debate. Action is needed now. If you could see how much was imported due to our lack to be self sustainable as farmers goes out of business due to losing whole herds and valuable bloodlines to Tb. If you would rather another horse eat scandal then be my guest and go ahead with favouring imported produce, but I would suspect that you would like sustainable and assured food from the best welfare standards in the EU to be going onto your dinner plate. Culling is not meant to be the be all and end all, but it's better to be proactive than stand around and allow another 35,000 crows be slaughtered per year, against the prospects of only 5000 badgers total. Remember you cannot vaccinate something that is already infected. The costs to test badgers is around £700, the cost of a bullet is 40p!!it is not to eliminate, merely to control, they have no natural predators and therefore need us to intervene. Have you ever seen a badger with Tb,have you seen the horrific death it goes through? Maybe you should, then you will realise we are trying to help their population be healthy for the future. Yes it is impossible to determine a heathy badger to An infected one when shooting, but I bid any of you to come up with a quicker, proactive, non costly solution??

Dr Andrew Kelly

As usual Giles Bradshaw accuses me of talking nonsense - and then goes on to talk nonsense himself. Predator / prey relationships ARE complex and DO cycle - if you look at badger and hedgehog populations over time and over different spatial scales, there is no significant impact on hog populations. In areas where badgers are absent, hedgehog numbers have also gone down at the same rate as areas where badgers are present. The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society recent said that while badgers do eat hedgehogs (nobody is denying this) that the reason for the decline in hedgehog populations is loss of habitat, particularly hedgerows for nesting and lack of food resources. Doubtless Giles Bradshaw will dismiss these two very reputable organisations in the same way as he dismisses any other reasoned arguments. If you remove a predator you may well get an increase in numbers of prey species. This is however likely to be short-lived as an increase in population in turn leads to competition for nest-sites and food resources and then the population declines again. There is a huge amount of evidence to support this - but alas Mr Bradshaw is not interested in evidence and will continue to rely on his own 'experience'. In addition, whether or no badgers have a negative impact on hogs is irrelevant in relation to the proposed badger cull. Natural England has issued licenses for 'disease control' not to protect hedgehogs, so if it is done for the latter reason it will be illegal. A final point - hedgehogs ALSO eat ground-nesting birds as we have seen in the Hebrides where hedgehogs were introduced and became invasive.

hedgehog

The point being more badgers need more food . The cull is to reduce the badger population to help control the spread of tb not for any other reason . A badger does carry /suffer tb and can live with the disease, whereas if a bovine eats, sniffs or comes into contact with the virus it will put up an immunity to it and FAIL a test . The bovine is culled as a precaution and the farm shut until it passes two clear tests (every animal over 42 days old is tested) so when a badger is free to roam on farmyards it can undo all the hard work . All farm animals are tested at least once a year and more if moving off farm to auction or summer grazing, so yes all the anti farming brigade we are well versed in do's and dont's on tb and are frustrated at the lack off progress on eradication of this disease .

Dr Andrew Kelly

hedgehog - bTB is caused by a bacterium. It's not a virus.

Giles Bradshaw

I am not relying on my 'experience' I am relying on the evidence provided by the scientific papers I quoted above and which you choose to ignore. I am not denying that there are other factors too but there is without doubt a relationship between badger numbers and hedgehog numbers.

Read the Paper Dr Kelly - it demontrates that as sett density increases hedgehog numbers decrease

http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/39154/

I note that you fail to give any scientific references to support your case. Just relying on what people have said.

Why can't you stick to the science as you preach to other people to do?

Daniel

" In areas where badgers are absent, hedgehog numbers have also gone down at the same rate as areas where badgers are present. "

Indeed! Which demonstrates that there are also other factors at play. Nevertheless it is pretty incontrovertible that in areas where there are less badgers there are more hedgehogs.

Mad Jack Myton

It is clear that what is required is a healthy and well managed population of badgers in rural areas such as ours. This is often the case that those that have a vested interest in maintaining such a population are the best qualified to manage the population. This can often be through through tourism as can be seen by the exemplary jobs carried by the game car parks in southern and eastern Africa, where the populations of many species have been stabilisied thus maintaining and protecting the entire food chain. Bearing this in mind may I refer readers to an article from back in April 2000 with regard to badger baiting holidays , a traditional country practice outlawed in the 19th century. If reintroduced the gentlemen from this article could be safely entrusted with the management of the badger population. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/699833.stm

Jamie

Assuming you are being serious (?!), then the opposite is often true. On Scottish estates there have been problems in maintaining the healthiest deer populations, as people want to shoot the stag with the biggest and best horns, likely an alpha male and the best breeding stock. Nature (wolves or other predators) would go for the sick and/or elderly, which improves the breeding stock. That's what Natural Selection is all about and we are not the best at achieving it.

Liz Henderson

Dr Kelly, you tell us that the relationship between predator and prey is complex, which does puzzle me a bit - what is complex about a badger coming upon a curlew's nest, crunching up an egg, enjoying that, and clearing out the whole nest? Why would he NOT do that? And having enjoyed that experience, why would he not seek out every other ground-nesting birds' nests he can find, and do it all again?

The statement about populations post- predator control puzzles me too. So the islanders of Uist, having got rid of their unwanted hedgehogs, are now going to find their lapwings and curlews dying out anyway? And the same thing is going to happen at the Lower Lough Erne RSPB reserve - the lapwings, doubtless even now breeding happily behind their badger-proof fence, will suddenly become unsuccessful and their numbers will dwindle - really? Sorry, Dr K., you've lost me there.

An interesting report was published in the Shropshire Star of January 11th, 2012 - it featured an interview with Frank Whittall (who sadly died earlier this year) whose family have owned the Riddings Wildlife Site since 1923. He said that there used to be 'hundreds' of skylarks, curlew and lapwing nesting there, but they had decreased dramatically in the last twenty years, until by 2011 there were none. He blamed the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 for the steep rise in the badger population. Needless to say there was also an interview with someone from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, who could only repeat the usual mantra of the habitat having changed..... which quite obviously it hasn't. I think the Shropshire Wildlife Trust needs to get out more, and look at that particular wild and undrained and 'unimproved' habitat - or perhaps it would be easier just to change their name to the 'Shropshire Badger Trust'.

Incidentally did anyone tell the islanders of Uist that the loss of ground-nesting birds was due to climate change/loss of habitat, I wonder? Or if it was simply a case of 'it woz the hedgehogs wot dun it, m'lord........' They could of course have got rid of their surplus hedgehogs by importing some nice badgers, which would quickly have solved the problem, and wiped out all the ground-nesting birds at the same time. Which would doubtless have delighted the badgerists, who seem to think that curlews and the rest only exist as tasty nutritious ready meals for their cutesy darlings.

Gary

Try blaming farmers spraying harmful DEFRA subsidised chemicals, dog walkers letting their animals run amok or habitat ruined by farming and greenfield expansion. All lived happily before man pitched up. Try opening your eyes!