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 174.

    "Dairy farmers only care about making money from animals. Why don't they move to plant based products instead? Then they wouldn't have to worry about BTB"
    And where is our milk and cheese going to come from? France? Also, much of our farming land will not support arable crops & can only support grazing grasslands.
    Why is it that so many Postings here indicate nil knowledge of farming?

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Just about everyone loves vegetables. After all, They're what food eats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    About time this government did something right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    For God's sake, DON*T DO IT!
    The cull is now delayed, not good enough, discard it forever, and follow the lead of Wales, Innoculate as many badgers as possible, as soon as possible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    So the cull had to be delayed until after the Olympics and Paralympics?

    Well I was glued to the TV throughout both events and I didn't see a single badger competing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I'd like to point out that whilst badgers are not, Grey squirrels ARE vermin and if there were to be a cull of those, the same "awwww look at dat cuuuuute fluffy aminal" crowd would still be fighting it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    159. swerdna
    The only opinions that count here are the views of farmers who have suffered BTB losses
    An interesting point of view. You might as well say the only opinions that count when it comes to criminal justice are the victims of crime. Only (insert minority here) should comment on discrimination, only soldiers should comment on military policy etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    'Last year, 26,000 cattle in England had to be slaughtered after contracting the disease'. Is that not what they are bred for - surely more burgers all round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Dairy farmers only care about making money from animals. Why don't they move to plant based products instead? Then they wouldn't have to worry about bovine TB. They can still make a living - just from healthier, kinder foods, which is better all round for humans, animals and the earth. And if people went vegan, you also wouldn't need to worry about bovine TB. Choose the healthier option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Well done on a good decision. It's just a shame they didn't feel fit to delay the NHS risk assessment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Good news let's hope it turns into a permanent decision. How can we even considering killing off our largest wild carnivores? We should be looking at how to protect them from bovine TB. TB in general thrives in poor living conditions so improve this for cows or vaccinate them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Snaaaaake! Snaaaaake! Ohhhh, it's a snake!

    In seriousness though, Stew Holt will be pleased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Why does the government and head of the British Veterinary Association keep lying time and time again about this saying the science is on their side?

    The science is not on their side, the scientists who have even did the research they cite have come forth and even said it's not on their side.

    These people are bare faced liars, and just want to open up backdoor hunting of British wildlife.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    There are plenty of farmers who have no issue with TB in their cattle because they know how to farm. Change farming methods rather than slaughtering badgers. Farmers are quite happy to spread disease for profit as demonstrated by the foot and mouth outbreak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    How do people not see that over-protection is just as dangerous as over-killing? There needs to be a medium and regulation to keep populations at a safe level for animal and humans. Not that badgers don't need some protection, like many other animals, but human safety and health needs to be put first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    The only opinions that count here are the views of farmers who have suffered BTB losses and vets.Remember that the taxpayer only compensates farmers for a small part of their BTB losses.
    All other opinions (including my own earlier 118 comment) are irrelevant.
    I'm gobsmacked by the reasoned/factual views expressed by people claiming to be vets & farmers (& Posting 120) being negatively voted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    The question to ask is why badgers were protected in the first place?

    Oh yes, it was because the farming and gamekeeping community had hunted them to the point of extinction in the UK.

    What this lot don't realise is that if you wipe out a local population of badgers then others will move in to fill the gap. And if these newcomers have TB......?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    "The role badgers play in the spread of TB has been scientifically proven beyond doubt..."


    " has the need for a cull."

    Not true. There is very much debate around how successful a cull would be, and the evidence seems to point to it being unlikely to make a great deal of difference. What we need is a decent vaccine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Scotland is TB free. New Zealand has bovine TB. NZ has no badgers. Scotland has badgers but no culling. The factor that stands out is the lack of regulation of farmers. In England infected cattle are (not infrequently in order to make a quick profit) sent to market and the infection spreads. On the rare occasion this is discovered, in England nothing effectively happens to the farmer responsible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Look closer to home
    Scotland TB free

    Is it badger free too? Can the NFU not tell the English Farmers to speak to their Scottish counterparts? It's not like they need to learn a new language or somthing!


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