UK & World News

  • 5 April 2014, 3:55

Badgers Should Be Gassed, Princess Anne Says

The Princess Royal has been criticised by animal rights campaigners after she described the gassing of badgers as a "much nicer way" to control them than shooting them.

Gassing has been banned since 1982 and is considered inhumane by animal rights activists.

But Princess Anne said she believed most people "will tell you that gas is a much nicer way of doing it, if that's not a silly expression".

"Because of the way it works. And how it works is that you go to sleep, basically."

Speaking about the recent badger cull pilot programmes designed to reduce TB in cattle, Princess Anne said controlling the spread of the disease was just one reason for killing the animals.

"From a conservation issue alone, you'd have to say there are too many badgers. A bigger growth in the badger population is not good for the balance of conservation anyway," she told the BBC's Countryfile programme.

A third of one cattle herd at Princess Anne's Gatcombeestate in Gloucestershire - where one of the pilot culls took place - has been wiped out by bovine TB over the past two years.

An independent experts' report has found the "controlled shooting" of badgers could deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a meaningful reduction of TB in cattle.

Humane Society International UK executive director Mark Jones said a reintroduction of gassing would result in a "slow and painful" death for many badgers and possibly other animals.

"Gassing experiments carried out at Porton Down in the early 1980s were abandoned because of the appalling levels of suffering to which the badgers were exposed," he said.

"Lethal concentrations of gases in complex badger setts are difficult to achieve, making sub-lethal exposure and associated suffering highly likely."

His remarks were echoed by Green Party animals spokeswoman Caroline Allen.

Ms Allen, a working vet, said: "It is very sad that a high-profile figure such as Princess Anne has chosen to weigh in to the badger debate showing even less awareness and even more ignorance on the issue than we have come to expect from Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

"Defra has clearly stated that gassing with cyanide should never again be considered and there are no alternate gases available without similar unacceptable effects."

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said last year that gassing badgers was being considered but would only be used if proven to be safe, humane and effective.

The Government recently announced the pilot culls would continue this year but will not be extended to other areas.

Princess Anne also spoke of her support for genetically-modified crops in the interview.

"I think the claims are probably slightly greater than most of the deliverables actually are. They do add to our ability to perhaps be more efficient users of the land," she said.

And she admitted she "seldom" discusses the subject with her brother Charles, who once suggested the method risked creating "the biggest disaster environmentally of all time".

Advertisement