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 114.

    David Skipsey

    i.e stop pumping them full of drugs and try a vaccine instead

    I hope you see the contradiction in that statement.

    Just kill all the badgers in the country, that way it wont be a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    @100 - by that logic we would have to cull ALL badgers and ALL cows as they will just spread it back to each other over and over again. Vaccination and better farming practices are a much better, and frankly less knee jerk reaction. Of course it will mean a lot of hard work to ....oh wait now I get it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.


    Another silly Tory polict wasting money.time etc

    Ever seen a badbger? I live in the area covered by the proposed cull (by the way same voices wanting wild boar population slaughtered). Why don'tfarmers! look after their cattle i.e stop pumping them full of drugs and try a vaccine instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Sir, Let me just put your mind at rest, the idea of slaughtering innocent animals is something I do not like, but I am not going to let some kind of wonderful world of Disney emotional stuff override the part of me that knows science and what needs to be done, if badgers we ugly animals or scary looking this debate would be over.

    Please see comment 81 for clarification thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    The Fisher Price Badger Baiting Kit, suitable for all ages! Order yours today and receive by Christmas!

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    This is a cowardly decision. What difference will we see in a year's time? Except, of course, lots more dead cows and several more dairy farm bankruptcies.

    Remember. Badgers are not endangered. Dairy Farmers are.

    Oh, and to the badger-lovers - I see that hedgehogs are becoming endangered. What's their biggest predator? Yup. Badgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Suggest people read this excellent article about this subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I recently asked: "What is the risk to humans from Bovine TB" at a government web site. The question was passed to the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSSPS) .

    They responded:

    "Any TB bacteria that may still be present in or on the meat is killed by normal cooking."

    "Milk is still regarded as the principle vehicle for transmission to humans, though the risk .. remains very low "

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    So vaccination is only "50-60%" effective. But an outright cull in an area (as shown buy the Government's own trials) only reduced cows being infected with TB by 16%, so that makes vaccination the better option surely?
    Why cull? 'Cos tests for whether a cow has TB can't separate vaccination from infection. So instead of wasting years on trials and culling, just sort out the science!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Hooray for the bunny huggers, you've won the battle. But spare a thought for the thousands of diseased dairy cattle that will now have to be slaughtered to keep the population of Bill Badgers at plague proportions. Who will save Dairy the Cow? Not those who just blame about poor dairy practices whilst knowing nothing about them, that is certain. They couldn't be more wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Surely we should stop farming as many cows?
    After all they contribute the vast majority of our greenhouse gases. If everyone ate beef less it'd do much more for the environment than turning your heating down a degree.
    Of course farmers are a Tory core constitunacy. So it is in their interests to increase their numbers and pander to them every which way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    Have to agree with you:

    "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...? Yet again, decision making is being removed from the people who really should be making the decision".

    I'm sure there would be no interest from "do-gooders" if badgers were pig-ugly....

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    farmers and their poor husbandry methods are the problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    If the Government were really interested in saving money, let's stop them from claiming expenses. If the Government and farmers really want to stop TB, lets put the money into really finding an answer and not taking it out on the Badgers.
    If it were not the Badgers, then they would find something else to blame!
    Poor husbandry perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I'm a vet surgeon specialised in farm animals. The current TB costs the Government £150million pa, not including the cost to farmers. The role badgers play in the spread of TB has been scientifically proven beyond doubt, as has the need for a cull. Badgers are slowly and painfully dying of TB. If you like badgers let us eradicate the disease in cattle and badgers alike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Don`t just delay it, call it off altogether.

    I feel very strongly about this inhumane and unecessary slaughter of a beautiful and inoffensive wild animal and I am ready to join any protest if it goes ahead

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    This has nothing to do with cute badgers or being a tree hugger, as some are suggesting. This is due to the Government not listening to science, not seeing the evidence and wasting tax-payers' money on schemes that have proven to be ineffective. The money can be better spent on sorting out faming methods, creating vaccines and bio-security. This has a better overall chance at reducing bTB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Great news! Harry Hill is organising a badger parade starring XFactor badger and Bono Badger.

    Another silly Tory polict wasting money.time etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Sounds like another U-Turn from this back of the fag packet incompetent govt. 34 U-Turns and counting. More to come

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I Love Badgers...
    They're Delicious.

    Joking aside, I think the cull is a bad idea.


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