THE British Veterinary Association (BVA) has given its support to the second year of the controversial pilot badger culls in England.

It follows Defra’s response to its call for improvements to humaneness and effectiveness in light of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report on the first years culls.

The IEP found the first year’s culling had failed to meet criteria for effectiveness in terms of the number of badgers removed and humaneness in the method of controlled shooting.

BVA called on Defra to fully implement all of the IEP’s recommendations and remained in constant contact with Defra meeting with Owen Paterson, the then environment secretary, Nigel Gibbons, chief veterinary officer, and other Defra officials to seek clarification on Defra’s proposals.

The BVA also demanded robust monitoring and collation of results, and independent analysis and audit by a nongovernmental body.

In a statement the BVA said it has now given its backing to a second cull after Defra confirmed that:

  • shotguns will not be used for controlled shooting
  • contractor selection, training and assessment will 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 to make it more effective with poor performing marksmen removed.

The BVA also welcomed Defras commitment to an independent audit of the way the protocols are carried out.

Robin Hargreaves, BVA president, said: “We 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.

“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.”

BVA’s position on further controlled shooting will be decided once it has assessed the outcomes of the second year.