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 54.

    Use science, not slaughter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Another U turn then. You can not say they are not consistent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Thankfully, voter pressure has had an effect!
    Here in Wales, where farming practice is, to say the least, somewhat dubious, the plaid ex farming minister did not have her way.
    Now sane and sensible arguments can take place in a regulated way, and hopefully, proper conclusions can be reached.
    Once again Wales has shown the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    It's very pragmatic and democratic of our country to opt on the side of preserving the life of a vermin species even though it will inevitably lead to a hike in the price of British beef.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Since badgers have become protected they have doubled in number. The TB problem is just one of many that they create. Young foxes are just as appealing but public sentiment only altered when they became a problem in the suburbs.
    If humans mess with nature there are always unintended consequences, but we've been doing it since the dawn of history, either to sustain useful things or control others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Another day another u-turn......

    If government by the people is democracy & government by the church is thocracy, what is government by u-turn called...???

    Another day & the Omnishambles continues apace.....

    ....are this Govt capable of doing anything with mucking it up...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    A misleading map: it omits the Isle of Man, which has TB but no badgers, and omits the distribution or density of cattle. This leaves me to suspect that the prevalence of TB corresponds well with the prevalence of cattle, but not with badgers. The distribution of badgers seems to relate more to availability of suitable habitat, and doesn't appear to correlate with TB distribution at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Leave the poor badgers alone!
    Many animals carry TB - not just badgers
    Farmers should keep their stupid cows out of badger holes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    farmers need to wake up. the nation prefers badgers to filthy drug fuelled cows. stop moaning and start pre treating your animals. or change your business model.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Badgers were made a protected species for good reason - there numbers were dwindling. Now they're prevelent with no natural preditor. Just because they look pretty is no reason not to cull if they carry disease. Some people may find house rats pretty go start a rat-watch series bring on Mr Oddy

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    It's not the Government who wants to kill badgers, but those concerned for cattle-farming. I'm sure the Government would love thousands of easy votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    There would be a certain irony if we are building under passes for badgers to cross roads, yet shooting them for no apparent reason.

    It's 2012, not 1812, in this day and age if we can place robots on Mars, we can find a means to let badgers and domestic animals live in harmony.

    C McK

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Brilliant news - I hope the whole thing gets scrapped and finally they use some scientific research rather than kill for the sake of it - mind you might be an idea to cull the bankers/politicians who let them get away with it instead??!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Government can't win!

    Identify solutions...float ideas...take feedback...adjust solution...suggest test...listen to feedback...change ideas....

    No matter what they do someone will think they are wrong.

    However that's how all problems are tackled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Eradicating badgers without an serious long term vaccination programme is a difficult sell. In the duration all the talking has gone on they could have done one

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    All the science says that a cull is ineffective. Apart from this, surely our main concern is that the we lack the intelligence and sensitivity to do anything other than slaughter another species. We've wiped out native animals before. Isn't it about time we stopped those who would be so cruel and stupid again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Well as there is very little evidence as to the effectiveness of culling this is a very reasonable course of action. What now really needs to happen is for farmers to update their hygiene practise and put their efforts into controlling TB using a more evolved scientific approach, rather than opting for a quick inafective dark age solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    INoconnection to the farming, I am an ex-towny moved to the country. I don’t know about the TB connection, but I am sick of trying to avoid breaking my neck falling down badger holes when I go for a walk. I am sick of trying to miss the bodies of the dam things on the road. I haven’t seen a hedgehog or skylark in years. Had a bumble bee nest dug out in the garden this year. Cull needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    The cull idea was based on poorly extrapolated information. The 16% reduction is not reducing the cattle culled by 16 in every 100 but is a 16% reduction in infected cattle - about 1 extra saved cow in 100. The financials don't even add up. It was forced through to show the standard Tory-voting farmers that the party was still on their side and doing something - even if it was the wrong thing.


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