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Happy Belated Birthday Bill Badger & Nutwood!

8 November 2019 - 99 years old

As a child, my Godmother, Lucy Copping, always bought me the "Rupert Bear" Annual for Christmas.

#RupertBear is/was a children's comic strip character created by the English artist Mary Tourtel and first appearing in the Daily Express Newspaper on 8 November 1920.

Bill the Badger was one of a number of characters and was Rupert’s best friend, always looking on the bright side.

Bill the Badger shares many adventures, and is a long-standing pal that Rupert relies on.

Bill has a good sense of fun, and lives with his parents and baby brother in #Nutwood.

Each one of Rupert’s stories began in Nutwood, where Rupert usually sets out on a small errand for his mother or to visit a friend, which then develops into an adventure to an exotic place.

At the end of the stories Rupert always returns to Nutwood, where all is safe and well.

During #Autumn My wife and I spend time in one of our favourite habitats - the woodlands and forests here in the Northwest.

We are blessed here in the Northwest to have some of the most spectacular #woodlands and #forests in the UK, some small enough for a mid-morning ramble and some large enough to keep our visiting family entertained for the whole day, and where there is woodland we’re sure to find the wildlife that use it as a last refuge against the building population of us humans.

“It is a sad fact that not many people have seen a truly wild badger due to their nocturnal habits, but for some like us the reward is truly magical.”

Where do badgers live?

As I’m sure you already know, #Badgers live in setts - underground burrows which they dig with their powerful, long claws.

The main sett is the headquarters where the badgers live for most of the year and it's where they rear their young.

As well as the main sett, there are up to six outlying setts dotted throughout each badger territory.

These are used in the warmer months when there’s lots of food around so they can sleep and shelter when they’re out foraging.

Most setts are in broad-leaved woods, but they can be found just about anywhere where there are lots of earthworms. They are usually dug in well-draining soil where it’s easy to dig, such as in sandy soils.

Badger clans

Badgers are really sociable and playful and live together in family groups, known as clans. There may be around six badgers in each clan that share the same territory. Their boundaries are marked by a series of toilets, known as latrines, which help them avoid conflict with other badger clans.

What do badgers eat?

The staple food of badgers is usually earthworms which generally make up around 80% of their diet.

However, as omnivorous, they will eat almost anything.

Badgers are in the Mustelidae - the family of carnivorous mammals that also includes weasels, pine martens and otters.

They eat…

• slugs

• insects, their sense of smell and sharp claws enable them to root up grubs from under the soil surface.

• Fruit including apples, pears, plums and elderberries - you can often find elder bushes growing near to the setts.

• nuts,

• seeds

• acorns

• wheat

• sweetcorn

• small mammals including mice, rats, rabbits, frogs, toads and hedgehogs

• animal carcasses and carrion that they come across

In times of food shortage, badgers may also raid bins in search of food.

Badgers are protected and so are their setts (burrows)

that they live in.

Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (, in England and Wales (the law is different in Scotland) it is an offence to…

• Wilfully kill, injure or take a badger (or attempt to do so)

• Cruelly ill-treat a badger.

• Dig for a badger.

• Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a badger sett, or obstruct access to it.

• Cause a dog to enter a badger sett and…

• Disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett.

But there are exceptions…

Licences to undertake some actions can be issued if it is justified, for example where a badger sett is found on a proposed site for a road or housing/building development.

Bovine tuberculosis

Having been born and brought up on a Farm in West Suffolk, I’m very aware that Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease of cattle.

It's caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) which can also infect and cause disease in many other mammals including badgers.

It's a devastating disease, and causes grief to so many, particularly within the farming community.

Some believe that badgers play a large part

in the spread of bovine TB amongst cattle.

As a result, large numbers of badgers have died in culling - especially in the past 5 years.

I feel that solutions should benefit farmers, cattle and badgers.

It concerns me, and many others, that the badger cull is proven to be unscientific Inhumane and ineffective.

At a cost of £20 million pounds so far, I feel that the roll out across the UK can’t be justified.

Over the last 30 years culling studies have failed to prove its ability to reduce levels of bTB

The best estimate claims that culling badgers may reduce bTB by 12% to 16% over a period nine years.

That still leaves 84% of the problem and up to 130,000 dead badgers.

“..It’s “Natural England’s View” that the Local disappearance of the badger in some areas cannot be ruled out…”

SADLY! Culling is non-selective and the vast majority of the 130,000 badgers targeted will be healthy animals.

A government-funded 10 year scientific trial concluded that…

“Badger culling can make no meaningful contribution

to cattle TB control in Britain”.

Many Badgers that are wounded and not killed are likely to suffer a slow and painful death.

I believe, from what I’ve read, that culling continues within the same areas for 4 years and as a result, badgers could be completely wiped out over large areas of England’s Countryside.

#Badgerculling has failed to prove its ability to reduce levels of bTB.

The best designed and largest cull was the “Randomised Badger Culling Trial” carried out by the Independent Scientific Group set up to advise the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how to tackle the problem of cattle TB.

Its final report in 2007 showed that…

1. Small-scale culling, targeted at specific farms, increased the incidence of the disease in herds rather than reduce it!

2. Widespread culling, over areas of 100km2 Wide, achieved a modest overall reduction in cattle TB, but increased incidence on adjoining lands which were not culled.

The reason was that culling caused badgers to move around more widely, transmitting more infection to one another and to cattle.

This change in badgers’ behaviour (Known as the perturbation effect) is likely to undermine the benefits of any form of culling.

Should we move away from culling and focus on Vaccination?

Is Badger Vaccination a Viable Option/Alternative?

1. Badger vaccine has been available since March 2010

2. Vaccinating does not cause perturbation

3. 54% - 76% reduction in risk of badgers testing positive for bTB and

4. Vaccinating 1/3 adult Badgers in a social group provides “Herd immunity” within 5 years.

Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population, and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease.

Twelve Wildlife Trusts across England and Wales conducted #badgervaccination programmes between 2011-2015.

During that time, the Trusts have vaccinated more than 1500 badgers.

The largest programme was run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who also hosted training for lay vaccinators carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in 2018.

The Wildlife Trusts have called on the government to invest more resources to support farmers and land managers to have the choice to vaccinate badgers instead of culling.

Whichever party is voted to be our next Government, I feel that they should…

act on the findings of the Godfray Review ( which highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling and

• roll out a widespread badger vaccination programme.

So, Cull or Vaccinate? What do you think?


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