Owen Paterson job move

Anti-cull campaigners will no doubt be pleased to hear that Owen Paterson is leave his post as environment secretary in David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle today (15 July 2014). Rowena Mason writes on today's Guardian website: "Green campaigners were rejoicing over the departure of the climate sceptic, while the National Farmers' Union was downcast at the exit of a cabinet minister who consistently stuck up for rural areas."

As the Badger Trust recently won the right to a High Court challenge of the goverment's decision not to consult the Independent Expert Panel before continuing with the two West Country culls this year and before possibly rolling them out to a wider area next year, campaigners were saying that Paterson would have to defend 'his' cull. But now it seems he will not have to. Someone else will!

The report in April by the IEP, commissioned before the 2013 pilot culls to review their safety, effectiveness and humaneness, was extremely critical, saying they were neither effective nor humane, and issued recommendations to improve them before they could be carried out in 2014. But soon afterwards, Paterson said the panel would not be reconvened before the next phase of culling.

Aan article in Farmers Weekly earlier this month by Jonathan Riley said:

"The trust’s legal challenge has been welcomed by Ranald Munro, who chaired the IEP. 'The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises,' said Mr Munro."

In the meantime, of course, statistics continue to arrive that show that badger culling is not the way forward for control of bovine TB in cattle. In March, bTB figures were at their lowest level in 10 years. Writing on This is the West Country website, Sam Jones says: "The national incidence rate, which records the proportion of new outbreaks discovered through testing, was at 3.25% in March this year - the lowest figure since 2004."

And earlier this month a feature on the Guardian website said that cattle measures were the only way to control bTB and that the government should even consider mass culling of cattle - unpopular though it would be - rather than continuing to focus its efforts on controlling the disease by eradicating badgers. The new scientific research, writes Damian Carrington, is a blow to the government's current policy. The research was published in Nature, one of the world's most prestigious science journals.

The Guardian adds: "Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust which is currently challenging the badger cull in the high court, said: “This groundbreaking report should be the final nail in the coffin of the disastrous badger cull policy. This report clearly shows that the most effective way to reduce bovine TB is not to kill hundreds of thousands of badgers. Calling an immediate halt to all future badger culls will deliver a good result in the battle to eradicate this disease not only for farmers, but also for taxpayers and our precious wildlife.”

You can read the full Guardian article here.