Let's face it, with technology that's available, those organisations and people who have a legal responsibility in their dealings which involve animals, shouldn't be surprised when their activities get recorded. As with most debates, there are contrasting opinions where issues of privacy are in tension with expectations regarding transparency.
Yet another incident utilising covert footage was published online recently and shows a method of dispatching Britain’s largest indigenous carnivore as part of a controversial cull now being expanded by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, in response to calls from farmers insisting that it is vital to curb the spread of TB in cattle. The footage shows a badger tract in a cage and shot at close range, and then the badger takes almost a minute to die. Animal rights activists said the footage raised questions about how the cull works.
The CEO of the Badger Trust has reportedly said “This war on wildlife has been carried out in secrecy by poorly paid contractors with no independent monitoring or concern for animal welfare or public safety. The film footage that has emerged is the first time we have seen evidence of cull contractors at work. It clearly shows a badger taking over 50 seconds to die after being shot in a cage, and contractors removing it from the site without bagging and sealing the carcass in line with government TB biosecurity guidelines.”
The statement clearly indicates that the government has applied biosecurity guidelines which the contractors are not complying with. Is ensuring that the contractors comply with the guide the separate issue to the culling of the managers themselves? And if trapping and shooting are unacceptable methods to find an appropriate balance between protecting wildlife species and concurrently controlling the incidence of TB in cattle, then what are the options?
The Zoological Society of London has also come out against the cull. It says that while badgers can and do transmit TB to cattle, most herds acquire the disease from other cattle. It also argues that culling increases TB transmission within badger populations and spreads the disease to new areas, and backs the trust’s argument that badger vaccination is a much more promising tool for TB eradication.
The footage raises questions about what information has been relied on by the decision-makers in choosing the contractors, methods of monitoring its own contractors, and appropriately balancing the interests of wildlife, farmers, and the public.