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 74.

    These animals have every right to live, its us the human race that has took all the land and push, move and slaughter animals just because it does not suit our needs, to go out and shot animals us just barbaric, farms can wine and whinge all they like. Its upto our scientists to come up with a solution not down a barrel of a gun

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I am a Beef farmer who went down with T.B last month. Whilst I think and know Badgers are major players in T.B. It is nothing compared with the failings of Defra and Animal health, these civil service departments offer conflicting advice the advice given is nonsensical. The measures implemented are pointless, It is a joke which costs the taxpayer millions every year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    They will never be able to tell which came first, the chicken or the egg. In the same way they will never be able to tell which species gives TB to which species - they clearly infect each other in a never-ending cycle. Only the TB bacillus wins. So killing badgers wil be as pointless as killing the cattle. Vaccination of the cattle would be more humane, cheaper and less divisive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Oh here we go again. People setting up ill-informed petitions when it doesn't affect them or their livelihoods. Should we not listen to the farmers who are having to deal with this problem on a daily basis? Yet again, decision making is being removed from the people who really should be making the decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Good news. Hopefully it will be only this policy that is culled.

    It is getting quite disturbing how many u-turns we are seeing from this government. It's a Coalition so you'd be within your rights to expect them to have discussed the policy amongst themselves first, yet they come accross as completely out of touch.

    The tragedy is I don't think Labour would be any better.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Surely to many goverment projects are being put on hold. They must learn to do the research before coming to conclusions. They then wouldn't have to continually alter their stance on everyother subject and waste more tax payer money

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    What is that says 'Brock the Badger' is too cute to cull, while 'Moo Cows' can be slaughtered for contracting TB, in the thousands? Unless we take some action to stop the TB spread, then many more cattle will die & eventually we have another crisis in our beef industry ... but animal rights groups will be happy. Strange.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Yet another ill conceived government policy, resulting in waste of public funds for no good reason, right up until the plug gets pulled. This government needs to get it's priorities straight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    40 ken1760
    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.

    They could always try doing something novel like listening to the scientific advise and evidence rather than lobbyists

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    A break to confirm the hypothesies seems like a good idea.

  • Comment number 63.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Awesome news and a true testament to people power and common sense! Well done to all the charities, such as Brian May's and others, who fought so hard for this. Badgers can sleep easy in their setts for a while longer.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If DEFRA and NFU had pursued a vaccination policy and enforced basic bio-security measures on farms, with the same disturbing zeal that they have shown for the cull of innocent animals, we'd be much further ahead to finding a solution for Bovine TB.

    This useless exercise has cost millions of taxpayers money and was always destined for failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    31. Peter_SymIts “intensively rearing meat to reduce prices does more to spread disease than anything else!”
    You’re probably right but I stand by my comment, don’t complain about the price of food next time you shop! Jo Public demands cheap food from their convenient supermarket, this cannot be done with totally humane practices. Not everyone can afford organic or free range.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    What really needs to be done, is to gas the badgers systematically! The majority of the people against the cull are the usual tree huggers! The same people did not have the same enthusiasm when the fires where lit with healthy! needlessly slaughtered! cattle due to the Foot and mouth epidemic of a few years ago!!!!
    Stop the media tripe and just get on with the job that needs to be done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    #24 I suggest you look at what the scientists have said about the effectiveness of a bdager cull.
    More generally, how many male calves are killed at birth because they aren't milk producers?
    For me, this isn't about "cuddly badgers" but about the evidence that culling is ineffective. We need strong evidence before we start killing innocent creatures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Why was the cull delayed due to the Olympics? Perhaps adverse publicity? If it's wrong in an Olympic year it's wrong any year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    #48 Might I suggest badger free Isle of Man has TB because a TB infected cow was brought in from the mainland? I suspect too that TB free Northern Ireland (by that map anyway) exports a lot of cattle but doesn't import. It would seem far more likely that bovine TB is spread at cattle markets and is moved around the country by infected cattle in trucks, not badgers on foot.


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