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 154.

    For heavens sake ! can this bunch of public school idiots not get anything right, either the science back up the proposal or not ,gassing was tried in the 1970s and made no difference.and its impossible to kill all badgers in any given area, clearly perhaps they should look a little deeper to see alternatives before dropping another "Clanger"

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Shooting wild animals?

    You will never ever win public opinion on that one lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.


    Badgers are not vermin, they are a protected species under Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

  • Comment number 151.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    I'm no expert but, Surely, rather than killing these creatures, would it not be better, all round, to leave 'treated' food dotted about the areas where badgers frequent, and stop the spread that way??

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    So the world can burn as long as the cute fluffy animals are ok.

    An animal with no natural predators, carrying a deadly infectious disease and we're actually having this discussion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    If the Government believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest a cull would not be appropriate this year, then I can only stand by the Government's position as I'm not an expert in this field.

    But I don't buy into the argument that the cull should be cancelled altogether on animal welfare grounds. The future of our cattle farmers must be of greater concern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    This is a government problem not a badger problem ... We need a good cull of politicians and civil servants ... That would be much more productive ... Or is that illegal to say in this country these days :)) ... What a laugh ... About the only thing these modern politicians are capable of is pointlessly killing animals and prosecuting people for joking about subjects they feel are off limits

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The only "scientific" evidence the government considers is cost of votes analysis between people for the cull vs people against. You wouldn’t dream of them actually ever doing the right thing would you !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Get off my land orrr the shotgun will come out. don't se many farmers selling up- Happy EU subsidy/taxpayers money - keep on collecting

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Notice that they are now talking about "controlling the disease in wildlife" - not just badgers. Do we really want a countryside with no wildlife at all? Farmers need to learn about basic hygiene and, if bovine TB is a problem for them, immunise the cows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    In other words the cost of a inoculation dart is is more expensive than a bullet, I suggest that the 50% -60% success rate of inoculation is an improvement on what we are doing now which is nothing, expect watching the usual omnishambles of the coalition and the badly directed Civil service who at the end of the day are responsible to ministers supposedly running the country

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    If we object to tax, can we delay / cancel entirely paying that too?
    The object of a trial is to establish fact
    Delaying / cancelling the cull means that we are none the wiser whether or not there is any truth in the specific role of badgers in the spread of bovine TB
    Although people may find the thought of it unpleasant, it may prove to be a necessary evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    France - Badgers - No TB problem.

    Sweden - Badgers - No TB problem.

    It is NOT spread by badgers. But by shabby British farming practice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    It's U turn time!
    Is it a competition between Cameron and Miliband - can Cameron do more U turns than Miliband can find bandwagons to leap upon?
    It's a knockout anyone............

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    On 30 September 2005 the following European countries had achieved official TB-free status:

    Czech Republic

    All the above data was taken from the Government Veterinary Journal.

    Each of these countries has substantial populations of TB-carrying badgers. Look and learn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    So what's so bad about immunisation for cattle against TB. many years ago, you could get unpasteurised milk from cows attested as TT (tuberculin tested). Now everything is pasteurised. It shouldn't affect the meat (Unless there is a knowledgeable vet out there to correct me) Is there any E.U. about it? Replies please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    How many cattle diagnosed with TB and slaughtered are found post mortem not to have TB after all? Even the diagnosis seems to be based on false science let alone the principals behind the cull.
    Perhaps the best cull would be in defra resulting in the removal of the entreched brain dead 'civil servant' replacing them with some glimmer of intelligence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but it's a bit annoying being called a badge/bunny/tree hugger just for sticking up for science.

    If the science showed that shooting badgers would be a more effective way to control BTB and save other badgers as well as cows lives, I'd pick up a gun and do it myself!

    It doesn't though. But it seems that the farming lobby is the flat earth society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    I think shooting things that annoy you or cost you money is a great idea:

    Tories... start running.


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