One in 10 Welsh farmers have killed badgers, 'dice survey' suggests

AROUND one in 10 livestock farmers in Wales could have illegally killed badgers in the past year, according to a random poll involving the throw of a dice conducted by universities in Bangor, Kingston and Kent.

In all, researchers spoke to 428 farmers at rural shows in Wales. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, researchers who carried out the study decided to adopt the ‘randomised response technique method’.

The technique involves the person being questioned rolling two dice and following rules as to whether they should answer truthfully or dishonestly, depending on the numbers rolled.

The researchers never know the result of the dice rolls, so they cannot tell if any specific individual may have committed an illegal act.

The research, published in PLOS ONE, showed that ‘over 10 per cent of livestock farmers in Wales have illegally killed badgers in the 12 months preceding the study, the researchers said.

The researchers stressed that the figures they uncovered can only ever be an estimate - as they can never know for certain what percentage of those who took part actually stuck to the dice rules and answered truthfully.

It means there is also an estimated margin of error in the results of between +5 per cent and -5 per cent.

But, say the report authors, the survey sample represents about 2.8 per cent of the farming industry in Wales, a higher ratio than those that may be questioned in a political opinion poll.

The technique has been used successfully in the past in difficult subject areas, such as wildlife crime in South Africa, abortion in Catholic countries and tax evasion in the Netherlands.

“Attempting to resolve the issues regarding badgers as carriers of bovine TB requires cross-disciplinary scientific research, a departure from deep-rooted positions, and the political will to implement evidence-based management,” says Dr Freya St John, from the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology.

“We believe this study makes an important contribution to that debate.”

It followed last year’s decision by the Welsh Government not to instigate a cull and introduce a badger vaccination programme in parts of West Wales and the decision to postpone planned pilot culls in England last autumn.

According to Dr Paul Cross, from Bangor University’s School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, the proportion of farmers estimated to have killed badgers should be considered by policymakers and in the wider debate.

“Studies investigating the effects of badger culling on TB outbreaks in cattle have not factored in the prevalence of illegal badger killing, and its potential to spread disease,” he added.

John Evans, from the Save the Badger group in south Wales, said it was “shocking” that such a high number of farmers in Wales could have been killing badgers.

“It begs the question how many farmers are doing this and have not been quite as frank. Badgers are protected by law and to kill, injure or disturb them is illegal.”

From the farming industry’s point of view Farmers Union of Wales vice-president, Brian Walters, urged farmers not to kill badgers and while he said condemned anybody breaking the law he said he could understand why someone could be driven to it.

“It shows the pressure farmers are under and the measures they are prepared to take in order to control TB because at the moment our government is not doing anything and successive governments have not done anything to tackle TB in the rural countryside.”

Responding to the report, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “There is no quick fix to tackling this disease.

“It demands a sustainable and long term approach and the application of a comprehensive range of measures including strict biosecurity, cattle testing and movement controls.

“Last year we vaccinated over 1,400 badgers against TB and will resume vaccination later this year.

“Badgers are protected animals in the UK and the issue of illegally killing them is therefore a matter for the police.”

Readers' comments (12)

  • The Peasant
    Perhaps it could be pointed out to John Evans, from the Save the Badger group in south Wales that trespass, theft and criminal damage are also illegal and until he and his fellow group members are willing to condemn those who committed these crimes to disrupt the Random Badger Culling Trials, he and they cannot complain if they are simply written off as hypocrites.

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  • I have to say that farmers are getting fed up with all this dilly dallying. One thing you can be sure of, is, that police are very rare visitors in the depths of the countryside.


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  • Compared to the numbers that we are constantly led to believe now smoke cannabis and take other illegal drugs, right across the UK, and are now virtually tolerated; I say, "Bring it on you sons of the Sons of Glendower"!!! . . This is a bad law brought in and supported by the worst pusillanimous governments of the last century and only enforced by their sycophantic fanatic followers who care more about animal rights than human welfare; all based on their naivety and total ignorance of the genus of pathogen we are having to deal with.

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  • The Peasant
    Do you really think that these people care more about animal rights than human welfare Charles Henry? i think they are prime examples of the truth that the easiest people to con are those that know everything. And they definitely know everything because they learned it all from the con artists at the Badger Trusts.

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  • Why else would they want to be vaccinating badgers with the BCG vaccine The Peasant, so contributing to its eventual total demise whilst there are still populations with children around the world where it is still useful that are desperately in need of it.?? . Advocates of “good causes” all too often confuse the justice of their cause with their own moral worth. Since they support a holy cause they are sanctified by it and brook no criticism.

    Quote:- "When that sort of self-righteousness peaks in an extreme animus, other moral considerations go out of the window. Supporting animal rights for instance can legitimise violence against human beings in such people’s minds.. . . “

    Mark Almond- Lecturer in Modern History, Oriel College, Oxford.

    About the Nazis:- Quote- “It does seem rather strange that they should be so concerned about foxes and other animals when you consider how they were treating humans.”

    Ian Kershaw, a professor of modern history at Sheffield University and the author of a biography of Hitler.

    I now give these morons no quarter The Peasant.

    Best Charles

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  • The RSPCA campaign to protect, rather than humanely manage sick badgers, which effectively prevented the issue of culling licences, is now projected by Defra to cost the taxpayer at least an unnecessary £3bn. This is despite the fact that RSPCA spokesmen and current director David Grant have said publically, that searching for, locating and dispatching sick super-excreter badgers, (which are driven well away from sets and territory towards livestock by young healthy badgers, proven by Maff (1978) to be the principle source of TB infection), could not be successfully prosecuted.
    The RSPCA over past twenty years have been repeatedly found to be responsible by the Advertising Standards Authority for presenting misleading and untruthful statements to the public and Parliament on wildlife management and farming issues upon which they raise funds.

    The RSPCA have now effectively demonstrated that they act in concert with the extreme elements of the animal rights industry and are clearly hostile to British agriculture. Milking the emotions of the uninformed public on live exports and shooting sheep and calves unnecessarily is among of their specialities. They do not believe that wildlife need magaging including badgers.

    It is now only a matter of time before the due processes of the Law, and a competent Charity Commission, close them down for their deceitful and fraudulent activities.

    Support British Wildlife Management in bringing back best practice in Wildlife Managent in the Upland and Lowland farming areas where so many vulnerable wild species are on the path to extincting, including Upland and Dairy Farmers through the failure to control badger numbers and other major predators. Losses toin ground nesting birds from predation amount to 80 to 90% of annual loses,

    Support British Wildllife Management for compulsory keepering and hunting methods to restore a biologically diverse countryside and our own profitable agriculture industry in the Upand and Lowlands.

    Edmund Marriage

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  • What a meaningless piece of research!

    How can they be so certain by this method of dice throwing?

    We should not read too much into it at all!

    I know, instead of spending money on looking for a better vaccine, why don't we invest millions in pointless and meaningless games?

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  • For information from the net.

    A very welcome voice.

    "Edmund Marriage." .

    "Edmund is the Principal of the Patrick Foundation, an Independent Researcher with a background in Business and Land Management. He qualified as a Chartered Land Agent and as an Associate of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (ARICS) at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester and Wye College, London University. He founded British Wildlife Management in 1995 to lobby Parliament and other organisations for best practice in Countryside and Wildlife Management, specialising on Animal Welfare Science."

    And a lot more.

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  • The Peasant
    If the Save the Badger group in south Wales were logical beings Charles Henry, they would be thanking anyone who reduces the badger population because that will save them time and expense catching and vaccinating them. But they are not......

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  • The very idea that ANY badgerists, ANYWHERE are going to be able to vaccinate enough badgers to make even the slightest difference to the problem long-term, is the biggest deceit and confidence trick since the invisible suit of clothes.


    "BCG' s efficiency was never over 80% and new scientific papers say it is dubious to rely on it.

    The way BCG should work in already diseased badgers (and cattle) is highly questionable, meaning it is much more likely to produce adverse reactions such as awaking existing "silent" or low scale Tuberculosis.

    The Merck Veterinary Manual covering all aspects of Vet Medicine worldwide comments:

    "The BCG vaccine, sometimes used to control TB in man, has proved to be poor at protecting most animal species, and inoculation often provokes a severe local granulomatous reaction."

    This is likely to be a quite hurtful process and the vaccination site itself might well end up as an abscess.

    As seen in trials, one cannot trap more than 60% of all badgers roaming around. Therefore if 60 out of 100 badgers are vaccinated with a vaccine which is only efficient to a maximum of 50 - 80% ( in healthy animals! ) you end up with far less than 50 badgers with a rather dubious protection.

    It is well known and common practice that if you do not succeed to vaccinate up to 95% of all animals of a target species, the long term positive effects in an area are likely to be pretty close to zero.

    If BCG is used as planned by DEFRA there will be huge perturbation and stress for all badgers, high costs and risk that the whole project will backfire.

    In the hot spots some 50 % or more of all badgers might carry the TB infection already increasing the risk of TB spreading when being vaccinated and according DEFRAs plans all badgers should get a booster vaccination every 12 months making things even worse.
    Who will be liable when it all goes wrong?"

    Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL. Somerset

    All note. . This Welsh fiasco has now been sanctioned by those totally incompetent, self-serving nincompoops in the European Commission who couldn't run a bath!.

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