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Grafton badger cull investigation dismissed as ‘trespass’

Life Peer Lord Benyon responds to question about Grafton Pet Crematorium investigation raised in House of Lords by Natalie, Lady Bennett.

In early October Protect the Wild posted undercover footage taken by investigators over a three-week period at Grafton Pet Crematorium in Northamptonshire.

The material we uploaded showed badger cull operators working at the crematorium. Multiple breaches of strict biosecurity guidelines and Health and Safety Regulations were filmed, including the dumping of badger carcasses (classed as ‘high risk’ by the government because of their potential to spread Bovine TB bacteria) into an open skip and animal blood and bodily fluids pooling across a floor.

Soon afterwards former leader of the Green Party Natalie, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, tabled a parliamentary question to Lord Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Lady Bennett asked the government “what assessment they have made of the research undertaken by Keep the Ban regarding the handling of culled badgers at the Grafton Pet Crematorium; and what assessment they have made of (1) human, and (2) animal health risks as a consequence of the way handling was approached.”

 

Government response ‘disappointing’

This week Lord Benyon responded, dismissing ‘the short, heavily-edited video’ as obtained by ‘trespassing’ and claiming that no determination of whether breaches of regulations supposedly enforced to protect human health and the spread of the Bovine Tb bacteria could be made.

Lady Bennett, who labelled the government response “disappointing”, has suggested that she will be following up by asking why an investigation into the conditions revealed at Grafton hasn’t been called for.

Protect the Wild has always offered to make the full-length footage (which of course was edited for social media purposes) available to anyone who wants to view it, but it’s hard to understand anyway how anyone could watch even the two-and-a-half minutes we uploaded without recognising the biosecurity risks being taken.

Benyon, who owns a 14000-acre estate in West Berkshire and was Conservative MP for Newbury between 2005 and 2019, took to Twitter as long ago as 2013 to attack the RSPCA for questioning the badger cull. In his role as Under Secretary of State he has supported the extension of culling, saying in late October that “Controlling TB in wildlife reservoirs, specifically badgers, makes up part of the package of measures of Defra’s bovine TB eradication strategy, with the aim of achieving Officially TB Free status for England by 2038.”

 

Bleak future for badgers

Under the current government, which claims to be a global leader on the environment, the future is looking increasingly bleak for a protected and much-loved species which has already seen its British population nearly halved to protect the dairy industry. New advice issued just a few days ago is aimed at reducing overall badger numbers by a massive 70% – in other words, total and permanent eradication of the badger from large parts of the countryside.

In those circumstances, a few gutted badgers in the back of a van and a skip full of carcasses open to the air perhaps seem unimportant.