Badger cull: Can Defra get enough farmers to pay?

 
Badger Defra say there will be an announcement on badger culls before Parliament's summer recess

Could the government be about to perform another U-turn, this time over controversial plans to cull badgers?

An intriguing insight into the difficulties facing a minister who's long called for culling was provided in this revealing interview by my Politics Show colleague Martyn Oates.

Many farmers think this would help bring down rates of TB in cattle, which have risen for most of the last 20 years.

Nowhere is worse-affected by the disease than the West country, so I've been investigating - and it's proved fascinating, especially when you look at the small print of the government's proposal.

Challenging conditions

On page 12 of Annex F attached to the large consultation document is this line: "For farmers in cull area, monetised costs exceed expected monetised benefits."

Put simply, farmers will end up out of pocket - while the government department, Defra, will be quids in. For it presently compensates them for most of their losses due to TB, but won't be paying for any cull.

And the proposed culls come with some challenging conditions: they must continue for four years, and cover at least 150 km² (in the West country that would likely mean well over 100 farms).

Even if Defra can get enough farmers on board who will stay the course (and the cost), there is the science.

It was a Conservative government that initiated the biggest ever study: the Independent Scientific Group spent over £50 million and nearly a decade to decide that culling wasn't worth it.

The last Labour government accepted this advice.

Judicial review

Now a Conservative Agriculture minister, James Paice, must decide whether to go against it - and be confident it'll stand up in court.

Be in no doubt, that is where it will end up, cautions Neil Parish MP, member of the Defra Select Committee, and himself a one-time Somerset farmer.

"All decisions can be judicially reviewed. This one will be," he says. "If we don't make the decision in the right way, then the judicial review would probably go against us and we will not have a cull."

Defra are saying very little, except that there'll be an announcement before Parliament's summer recess.

Ministers may want to find a remote holiday home to see out the ensuing row...

 
Paul Barltrop Article written by Paul Barltrop Paul Barltrop Political editor, West of England

Badger cull: Can Defra get enough farmers to pay?

Could the coalition government be about to perform another U-turn, this time over the controversial plans to cull badgers?

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 61.

    I see this board has been taken over by a couple of pro-cullers who just shout down, attack and insult everyone who disagrees. Signs of a weak argument. I strongly suspect at least one astroturfer here. Who do you work for?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 60.

    Human tuberculosis is associated with poor living standards. Could it be that this is also the case with that which affects badgers. If so then control of the population would be in the interests of both the badgers and the farming industry.

    Could badgers be put on oral contraceptives administered with a chew thrown down the set. The fox population might be controlled at the same time.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 59.

    Many people will be out in these areas trying to sab the cull with
    the use of guns and the fact that badgers come out in low light conditions it is only a matter of time before there is an incident
    So i hope the minister will think again before he ends up with blood on his hands.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 58.

    I have recently heard some very disturbing news on the farming programme on BBC Radio 4 . They announced yesterday that the cattle that were being culled with TB lesions were being put back into the food chain with the offending lesions being cut out and none of us would be any the wiser. I do think that meat purchasers should be made aware of this before we end up with another BSE problem!!!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 57.

    The Badger Trust et al should consider what is the meaning of a pyrrhic victory before celebrating the pusillanimous WAG decision. . It will come back to haunt them.

 

Comments 5 of 61

 

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