5th March 2014
CHARITY FINDINGS CONCUR WITH IEP REPORT
Recent leaked reports on the BBC that the Independent Expert Panel appointed by DEFRA to evaluate the ‘safety, efficacy and humaneness’ of the pilot badger culls, suggest that the culls were ineffective and failed the humaneness test.
Secret World Wildlife Rescue is a large wildlife charity in Somerset, which cares for over five thousand wildlife casualties and orphans annually. The charity is especially recognized both nationally and internationally for its work with badgers, caring for adult animals and rearing badger cubs, and working to promote responsible and scientific rehabilitation practices.
When the badger culls were announced we were conscious that we might be required to treat injured or displaced animals from the cull areas, and for this reason developed a protocol allowing those people in the cull areas to quickly bring animals to us as required. We also appreciated that dead badgers might be found and were keen that these were handled in a coordinated and professional way.
During the cull period two dead badgers came into Secret World from the Somerset cull area. The first of these, tagged ‘Badger 102’ was found near Wheddon Cross early on 14th September 2013. A veterinary surgeon examined the dead animal and x-rays were taken. Some information regarding this case was released to the press at the time. The body was then stored appropriately and securely until a full post mortem examination could be carried out. The second badger, tagged ‘Badger 200’ was found late in the evening on 11th October near Carhampton. The body of this animal was again examined and x-rayed and stored until a post mortem examination could take place.
QUALITY OF POST MORTEM EXAMINATIONS:
Post mortem examinations were commissioned from an independent veterinary pathologist, Dr Mark Stidworthy of International Zoo Veterinary Group, an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Veterinary Pathology of Zoo and Wildlife Species. Dr Stidworthy’s findings are described below. In these cases full diagnostic post mortem examinations (PMs) were completed and provided detailed evidence not otherwise available to the IEP because the PMs carried out by AHVLA on behalf of Professor Ranald Munro and the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) were less detailed.
We have not previously released Dr Stidworthy’s findings out of respect for Professor Munro and the work of the IEP. These post mortem reports were however, immediately made available to the IEP for inclusion in their considerations as to the humaneness of shooting badgers.
POST MORTEM REPORT SUMMARIES:
Dr Stidworthy’s summary diagnosis of the cause of death in badger 200 was, ‘severe acute focally extensive trauma and haemorrhage, including multiple thoracic vertebral fractures and spinal cord contusion, consistent with gun shot injury, dorsolateral mid-thorax and vertebral column.’
The pathologist went on to comment that ‘the lesion is consistent with acute gunshot injury by a single projectile striking obliquely through the mid dorsal thorax/vertebral column. The bullet has travelled obliquely through the paravertebral muscle in the mid thorax, and resulted in focally extensive vertebral trauma including multiple fractures, proximal rib fracture, muscle maceration, and spinal cord contusion, in the segment around thoracic vertebrae 7 to 12. There is also apparent avulsion of an intercostal arterial branch, with acute mediastinal and retropleural haemorrhage. The projectile has not entered the thoracic target zone, and there is no damage to heart or lungs, nor to cranial structures or the brain. This lesion will have been acutely severely debilitating, with an expectation of rapid hind limb paralysis, and no prospect of long-term survival. However, the absence of heart or brain destruction and the limited mediastinal haemorrhage suggest that loss of consciousness and death are unlikely to have been immediate following the initial injury, although I am unable to estimate the actual length of survival.’
He concluded that ‘this badger has been shot, but not through the thoracic target zone, and consequently there is no damage to the heart. A severe muscular, vertebral and spinal cord injury has resulted, which is considered incompatible with survival. However, the injury is considered unlikely to have resulted in immediate loss of consciousness and death.’
Dr Stidworthy’s summary diagnosis of the cause of death in badger 102 was, ‘severe acute focally extensive trauma and haemorrhage, including cardiac destruction, consistent with gun shot injury, thorax.’
The pathologist went on to comment that ‘the lesion is consistent with acute gunshot injury by a single projectile. This entered the skin in the left lateral thorax, and travelled medially and ventrally. In the course of its passage through the thorax, it generated multiple rib fractures, macerated cranial liver lobes, and resulted in diaphragmatic and body wall rupture leading to subsequent (post mortem) evisceration of the stomach, spleen, intestine and liver. Most significantly, there is acute and severe cardiac ablation, generating complete destruction of most of the left and right ventricular free walls and the interventricular septum.’
Referring to the likely speed of death he commented that he ‘would expect death following such an injury to be inevitable and immediate.’
INTERPRETATION OF THE POST MORTEM FINDINGS.
In the case of badger 200, Dr Stidworthy’s findings show that this animal was not shot within the Defra proposed target area for shooting of free running badgers. The shot instead hit the badger’s spine and caused considerable trauma to the spine, ribs and surrounding tissue. In the opinion of the pathologist, this injury was considered unlikely to have resulted in immediate loss of consciousness and death. We believe that instead there would have been a prolonged period of unnecessary suffering before the badger eventually died of its injuries. There was no evidence to suggest that a follow up shot had been made to ensure that the already injured animal died quickly. This finding is consistent with the leaked IEP report that more than 5% of badgers culled took unacceptable times to die. The manner in which this animal died cannot be considered in any way humane and would under any other circumstance be in breach of animal welfare legislation.
Both these badgers were in good condition with no evidence of tuberculosis at post mortem or upon subsequent culture.
DIFFICULTY OF FINDING INJURED BADGERS:
Our experience, over more than 25 years, dealing with injured wildlife has illustrated how difficult it can be to find an injured badger as these animals instinctively try to return to their sett or seek dense cover. Certainly in the case of badger 200 it is possible that the animal managed to move away from the precise location where it was shot. Neither we nor the IEP can know how many other injured badgers died below ground or were simply not found and therefore how many suffered unnecessarily during these trial culls. This may mean that the failure to achieve the "humaneness" target of no more than 5% of badgers taking more than 5 minutes to die has been missed by an even larger margin than suggested by the leaked IEP report.
March 5th 2014
For further details please contact:
Elizabeth Mullineaux BVM&S, DVM&S, CertSHP, MRCVS Email: email@example.com
These photographs and more are available in higher resolution
Comments from supporting charities
Dominic Dyer for Badger Trust:
The Badger Trust is appalled at this finding, but nevertheless takes it as clear evidence of the kind of brutality inflicted on badgers by a self-interested industry and its friends in Government. It is not clear whether these animals were included in the official tally of cull victims (1,861 badgers) but the lives of all of them were utterly wasted in the attempt to prove the unprovable - that free shooting could be humane and effective. According to a report leaked to the BBC, the Coalition's own Independent Expert Panel (IEP) has decided it was neither and the post mortem indicates how difficult it is to shoot badgers humanely at night . Ominously, George Eustice, the farming minister has now said he would not necessarily feel duty bound to accept the IEP's findings. This reveals a dogged ambition to persist with this futile and cheapskate technique.
Contact:- Dominic Dyer
Badger Trust CEO
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 08458 287878 Mob : 07876 596233
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Wendy Higgins for Humane Society International/UK:
“These post mortem results provide further grim insight into the horrific wounding and potentially prolonged suffering endured by many of the badgers shot during the pilot culls. Both badgers in this case underwent catastrophic physical injury, one killed quickly but nonetheless incorrectly and against best practice, and the other likely to have suffered for some time.
Their deaths are scandalous, these animals died for nothing. Lab results confirm they were perfectly healthy with no hint of disease, just like we suspect the vast majority of shot badgers will have been. We know from the IEP report and the Natural England monitoring, that many badgers suffered a similar fate to these two. But worse still is the knowledge that many more mortally wounded badgers are likely to have escaped to their setts to die in agony underground. The evidence of suffering that we have is bad enough, but the true scale of badger suffering could be far higher.”
Additional information released by Humane Society International/UK from an FOI request, show that Natural England cull monitors witnessed a significant number of badgers being shot in the wrong body area (head, shoulder, neck etc) and being shot more than once, some enduring wounding for between 5 – 10 minutes before the fatal last shot.
Contacts for Humane Society International:-
Mobile: +44(0)7989 972 423
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Dr James Yeates MRCVS, Chief Veterinary Officer for the RSPCA:
"Re Badger (lab ref 200)
"This appears to have been a healthy badger, with no evidence of TB. He was shot, suffered, and died. The shot smashed his ribs, filled his chest with blood and damaged his spine. This left him paralysed and struggling to breathe. His heart and brain were undamaged, so this was far from a quick death.
"This one sad example may represent the suffering of many other animals who escaped or crawled off to die underground. The numbers of these animals cannot be gauged by a single post mortem - the IEP report will give an idea of the extent of suffering across all animals. What this post mortem shows is the severity of suffering for one individual affected."
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