Badger cull: Government to delay scheme until next year


Owen Paterson: Need to ensure "the cull will conform to the scientific criteria and the evidence base"

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The government has announced it will delay a planned cull of badgers in England until next summer, after widespread protests against the scheme.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said this was necessary to "get it right" and the "optimal time" for this year had passed.

Under coalition plans, several thousand badgers could be shot, in an effort to reduce levels of bovine tuberculosis.

The anti-cull campaigner and Queen guitarist Brian May welcomed the delay.

Ministers have given approval for a cull in two areas, Gloucestershire and west Somerset, as part of efforts to control bovine TB.

Under the plans, badgers will be shot in the open without first being trapped in cages, which is current practice.

Opponents, including the RSPCA, say that is inhumane, with an e-petition to the government attracting more than 160,000 signatures.


In a statement to MPs, Mr Paterson said the cull "should have begun" earlier this summer but had been delayed until after the Olympics and Paralympics, with recent bad weather also hampering preparations.

But he said that the alternative - a vaccine - was only 50% to 60% effective, adding: "I'm entirely convinced that the badger cull is the right thing to do."

The National Farmers' Union is leading the preparations for the scheme, but Mr Paterson said it had written to him asking for a delay, as this was not the best time of year to go ahead.

He said badger numbers in Gloucestershire and Somerset were higher than had been previously thought, adding: "It's crucial that we get this right."

The government's plan is based on the results of a nine-year trial which showed the spread of the disease could be slowed slightly if more than 70% of badgers in an area could be eradicated. But if it was less than 70%, the spread of TB could increase, it found.

map showing distribution of badgers and bovine TB in the UK

Mr Paterson said: "It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70% of the population."

He added: "By starting the pilots next summer, we can build on the work that's already been done and ensure that the cull will conform to the scientific criteria and the evidence base."

'No answer'

For Labour Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, called the government's handling of the badger cull "incompetent and shambolic".

"Once again, ministers present the House with a disaster entirely of their own making. Once again, it's farmers and taxpayers who are left counting the cost," she said.

"Bovine TB is a terrible disease for farmers, their families and their communities. But this cull was never going to be a silver bullet."

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans.

"Science, the public and MPs from all parties had said very clearly that a cull is no answer to bovine TB."

Brian May, who has campaigned against the cull, called the government announcement "at least a temporary reprieve".

He added: "But let's be very clear: this is a scientifically flawed, ethically reprehensible, economically unjustifiable and reckless policy that needs to be abandoned, once and for all."

But Peter Jones, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "The science has not changed. Scientists agree that culling badgers does reduce the levels of infection in cattle herds, and we know that no country has dealt with bovine TB without tackling the disease in wildlife."

Line graph showing bovine TB incidence in UK from 1996 to 2011

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says the cull is necessary to protect cattle from bovine TB.

Last year, 26,000 cattle in England had to be slaughtered after contracting the disease.

The Welsh government has opted for a system of vaccination while Scotland is officially TB-free.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I think the government would have a cull of retired people to reduce pension and NHS costs if they could get away with it. A 'pleb cull' as well maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    For once we (the people who vote) have been listened too"! I wonder just how much money has already been wasted that could have gone to farmers to help improve their farm (prevention better than cure so to speak).

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I suspect that many farmers have been shooting badgers for years unofficially of course. In any event from what I understand the taxpayer is the one who is compensating the farmers if they lose cattle. I also suspect that as Cameron & Co are at a low ebb in the polls they are just playing for time in the same way as they have over so many other thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    23. therealist

    To all the anti-cull bunny huggers, don't complain about the price of British beef next time you shop, ah, actually you're probably all veggies.
    I'm pure carnivore and anti-cull. Its intensively rearing meat to reduce prices does more to spread disease than anything else! We ended up with mad cow disease by trying to save a few quid on cattle food.

    Learn from history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Ever seen a poor farmer? Just another excuse for the gun happy rich to plug some innocents. Stop feeding cattle on dead animals and there will be less problems. Everybody wants to be a millionaire no matter the cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @15 Dear afarmer,

    how many dairy cows have been killed just because they outlived their usefulness during that time. It is all about money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Brian may is a Badger fan...who'd have thought it.......doesnt like cows though...probably a veggie/vegan/hippy with that hair-do though.....

    Just let the farmers deal with it....if you have badger on your farm then get rid of them,,,,same as any pest

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    If only we could cull our Politicians.

    I can think of far more cases for it than against it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Look I live in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales; we have a significant farming community here, as we do in many parts of Wales, just as in many parts of the rest of the UK where farming, not banking, celebrity and hippy love culture is king. TB is a massive threat to farming, more so than foot and mouth or BSE, badgers are a threat, just because there cute, does not mean we should not take action

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Look at Northern Ireland, a predomminatly dairy and beef economy and not one case of Bovine TB. Lessons can be learnt from the model adopted there. Not necessary for a cull. Maybe the standards of farming arent as high in the areas with the high TB cases, but to solely blame it on badger aided transmission is idiotic at the least. As many have highlighted, based on questionable scientific fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    If it can be proven a set is carrying TB - then a cull is needed, if not culling healthy animals will mean others will move in, they could carry TB. So culling could introduce the disease where it was otherwise non-existent. If dairy heards are disease free then why cull? you would be increasing the risk, if they are not free from TB then cull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    To all the anti-cull bunny huggers, don't complain about the price of British beef next time you shop, ah, actually you're probably all veggies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Such a cull failed in Ireland and is socially and ethically irresponsible. Vaccination of the cattle is far more humane but that costs money and therefore our socially and ethically irresponsible government will not go down that route.......far better to destroy an animal that cannot fight back than risk upsetting wealthy landowners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    As a badger I can say this is very welcome news. My wife and I are delighted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Kill the badgers, and find a way to vaccinate the beef herds safely so that there is no need for there to be a repeat cull in future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I'm firmly against the cull, but I find it staggering how many u-turns this governement has been forced into.

    It suggests they are either not properly researching policies before they announce them, or that they are making it up as they go along, announcing policies then waiting to see how the public reacts before deciding whether to implement them or not.

    Interesting way to run a country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Culling is based upon flawed science. We should examine the evidence from the Welsh vaccination programme before considering any next steps. Understanding countryside issues and country life does not need to mean supporting the killing of everything and anything that farmers want removed. I hope that Ministers actually review this with an open mind, and not with vested Constituency biases.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    @ 3.NicktheFace

    I don't agree with the badger cull either, not am I a Tori but to suggest the reasoning behind it is because the Tori's are nasty doesn't really add weight to prevent it. There are really quiote complex reasons behind and playground name calling doesn't really help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I thought the they were telling us 'this is the right thing to do' only a few days ago.

    It seems this intensely annoying much overused phrase that the coalition constantly trot out in an attempt to stifle reasonable discussion has been the kiss of death yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Excellent - we can carry on killing 28,000 dairy cows every year and everyone will be happy - except the farmers who have suffered for the past 20 years with no hope of a sollution


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