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 134.

    I be a farmer
    Why all the fuss about eating meat with a bit of bovine tuberculosis.
    I bin eating meat contaminated with bluetongue, scrapie, internal parasites, swine flu & foot and mouth for years & I got a ‘gert great’ IQ of 27. Taint dun me no ‘arm

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Great news. Now, let's hope sanity will continue to prevail

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Hedgehogs also get killed on the road, in about the same number as badgers and foxes - and are also killed by slug pellets you put out in your garden for the slugs and snails which are their food.
    Badgers dont just pass TB to cows, they get it from them as well. If you are going to cull the Badgers, are you going to cull all the cows with TB as well? Vaccination, not anniliation, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Why the knee-jerk automatic down-rating of pro-cull comments - just because someone dares to oppose anti-cull posters here?

    Anyone who has actually encountered a badger in real life - rather than on Countryfile - will know they are nothing like what is being portrayed in some of these posts.

    People - is it not possible to respect opposite views?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Why do 26,000 cattle in England have to be slaughtered after contracting the disease? How are these cattle affected?

  • Comment number 129.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    109. David Hoggard

    Surely the point is that Bovine TB should be managed, in the same way that humans are managed if ill.

    While I Agree that Dairy farmers should not become extinct, neither should the few animals we have left in the wild in this country.

    Equally though, if you want to keep Badgers out of your field ... build a wall. I did so to keep badgers out of my garden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    It's respectable protecting a species,but the badger population is large & negatively impacting human way of life.The only other viable option besides the cull,vaccinating cattle, should not even be an option.Human health needs to come first.Maybe if badger hunting was not outlawed,but instead regulated there would not be the issue there is today;overpopulation=disease. Bad for humans and badgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I'll take the opinion of Peter Jones, president of the British Veterinary Association, over sentiment. Every time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    i love all the backers of the farmers.
    there is no proof what so ever that the cull will be even remotely effective so why bother?
    surely it would be better if farmers cleaned up their farms instead of killing a creature that may or may not be infected.
    farmers are just lazy,they take free money off the EU for just owning land!and can't be bothered to farm properly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    The "take-home" stat from the science is that even if successfully performed, the cull would only reduce TB by an estimated 16%. Not exactly a cure, then. Also: The only problem with the existing bovine vaccine is that it makes the test for TB impossible to use. But surely if all animals are vaccinated...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The petition was not "ill-informed", it was set up because of the lack of scientific evidence to support a cull and ovewhelming evidence proving it would do more harm than good, and eliminating one small link in a long chain was not the answer
    2. No, farmers are not in the best position to make an unbiased decision

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I suggest the badgers are caught and transported to the countries where people are killing wildlife for food, and we are there trying to police this activity to preserve the species. Badger meat might be a substitute for the hungry of those areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    51.Andrew Davis

    Vermin species, not culling the bankers are they.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    I was on Salisbury Plain birdwatch/spotting and asked a local man why there so few birds around, I was told by him that the badgers had hoovered-up the ground nesting birds and point to the location of a number of badger setts and complained that they were plaguing the area. Now, I know little about badgers, what there natural density should be etc. But is the issue not just just TB? RSPB view?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    86.Pete Powell

    Spill the beans on Jimmy! What did you know?
    Hows Gary Davies?

    If the price of Beef goes up much more we might be eating badgers as an alternative!
    Then the farmers will be laughing.New stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    This disease causes enormous problems & suffering for farmers and their cattle. It MUST be beaten - somehow.
    I feel that mass/concentrated culling of ALL badgers within, say, 3 miles of any farm suffering a BTB outbreak could help even if a general cull throughout the country will unlikely be successful.
    If culling does not help, more effective vaccines for cattle AND badgers MUST be developed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It is all very easy for Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, to call the government's handling of the badger cull "incompetent and shambolic"; when she does not have the responsibility for making the decision. It seems that the main reason for the delay was to accept the request to do so by the NFU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    You wouldn't get this ridiculous sentimentality over rats or other vermin, and having misguided celebrity hippies like Brian May clouding the issue doesn't help one bit, I wish he'd shut his whining (and that goes for his guitar playing too).

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    First they tried to sell off the Forests, and did a U-turn and sacked Spellman, now it looks like a victory for the "environmental Taliban" that apparently Gideon refers to?
    As with this incompetent govt everything is up for sale - can't they just sell the Badgers? Perhaps they should adopt them as their mascot "Tory Bodgers"


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