2013 was a particularly eventful year in the badger world. It was dominated by the announcement of the intended cull of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire and the fiasco that followed.
As I write we have just received a copy of the report from the Independent Expert Panel (I.E.P) on the disastrous trial culling programme completed last year. This highlights a number of areas where the programme generated by the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, had failed to achieve its intended targets.
Despite this report, Paterson still appears not to have given up on his original aims of extending the cull to cover the entire country although these aims have now been considerably delayed. It seems that culling will continue to take place in Somerset and Gloucestershire during 2014, with the aim of refining the killing techniques in line with recommendations from the I.E.P.
The detail of how he intends to do this remains unclear at the moment and there are grave concerns that many more badgers will be sacrificed in a pointless exercise which will still fail to achieve any meaningful result.
The worry is that Somerset and Gloucestershire will become a free-for-all with the cullers shooting at will and self-certificating their own efforts. As we know from the I.E.P report, during the 2013 trials many of the cullers failed to achieve the humane killing standards and the biosecurity measures they were supposed to follow. Nothing I have read so far gives me the confidence that anything will change in this area.
Much of our time has been taken up with the badger cull and a number of members have attended marches and demonstrations in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Taunton, Whitney, Stratford upon Avon and possibly others I don’t know about.
More recently bTB has been reported in cattle on private land at Longdown and again near Ringwood. None has been reported from cattle actually depastured on the Forest.
As usual your committee has met on four occasions during the year. Juliet Bloss resigned from the committee at last year’s AGM and her place was taken by Gordon Bird.
The pub evenings have continued through the autumn and winter. We meet at the Queens Head in Burley on the first Monday in every month between September and April
I gave a talk on badgers to the Lymington Rotary ClubJulia and I carried out a badger survey at St. Ives Manuel exhibited some of his excellent work at a Film Show in Lymington from which the Group received a proportion of the proceeds.
I gave a talk on badgers to Sherfield English Gardening Club
Several members manned a sales stall at Moore and Blatch, LymingtonI conducted a Badger Watch in the New Forest for a few members of the Hampshire Mammal Group
Julia and I attended the Badger Trust Annual Conference in Derbyshire
Several members manned a display at the Waterside wildlife event at Holbury
Several members attended a talk on badger vaccination at the Dorset Wildlife Trust offices at Forston, near Dorchester.
Outside of this, the work of monitoring setts in the Forest has continued but we are always looking for new sett watchers so if any of you are interested then please let me know and we will arrange to allocate a sett for you to watch.
4th April 2014