Badger Cull To Go Ahead In England

UK - Farming minister Jim Paice has confirmed that there will be a science-led cull of badgers in England to combat bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle.
calendar icon 24 May 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Mr Paice made the pledge during the Devon County Show last week and then moved to clear up confusion that had emerged following comments attributed to the new Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman.

He told BBC radio’s Farming Today: "We haven’t changed our approach at all. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives fought the election on the belief that we cannot properly deal with bTB without killing badgers.

He said the Secretary of State’s view had been ‘misreported’ and that the timescales involved would be driven by the need to ‘get this right’.

He added: “We cannot issue licences today; we’ve got to get this right. We all know there is a high probability we will be challenged and I’d rather wait a few weeks longer than risk losing a judicial review.”

Mr Paice said that he would now ‘look at the big picture’ where the injectable vaccine trials scheduled for a few months’ time were concerned. He did little to remove a question mark over whether they will run at all. He stressed that a cull was part of a ‘comprehensive package of bTB measures’ and not the single solution. The minister expressed hopes for an oral vaccination within four to five years’ time.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall said: “This is not a win for the farming industry. It’s always difficult when there are tensions between farmers and environmental groups and there will be negative media coverage. This is such a serious issue for the production of food in the UK that we have to tackle it and make tough decisions and I’m glad the minister has made a start down that road.

"This disease caused us to have to slaughter, in the last full year, 40,000 cattle. We cannot wait five years. We are seeing people exiting the farming industry. We’ve got to make a start.”

Jack Reedy, the Vice-Chairman of the Badger Trust, questioned the scientific basis for any cull, suggesting the benefits would be marginal and the cost substantial. The ‘detailed wordage’ of the programme would determine whether a legal challenge would be mounted, he added, going on to describe a cull as a ‘deeply ill-advised move’ which could help the disease to spread.

“The news is of great relief to thousands of farmers whose livelihoods have been hugely affected by the impact of TB and also to those who live in fear of their herd becoming infected,” says Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers' chairman, David Cotton.

“We trust that government’s approach to the cull will not only be scientifically based, but will also take on board lessons learned from similar measures adopted to eradicate TB in other countries as well as previous experience in the UK. We need to get this cull right, and that means right from the start.”

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