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 214.

    Provided this is scientifically backed up, and prices won't be hit, this is good news. I wasn't born into the top of the food chain to eat rabbit food, so all the cute fluffy animal rights vegan brigade can stop trying to convert me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    its just the cheapest option to shoot them isnt it? far more financial sense in bullets than effective, but expensive fences to keep these types of animal apart.
    I mean .... its only a food source, its not like we should have any obligation to take care of the food source properly..... just eliminate all other animals....
    much cheaper and desirable to our god.... otherwise known as MONEY!

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    @Matthew - and just because you feel helpless and a need 'to do something' does not justify a gung ho attitude and blatant disregard for science and respect for the countryside in a wider context than farming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    i was in favour of the cull until i fond out about cattle movements around the country by farmers and the checks carried out on the beasts prior to transport. minimal at best . sort that out first before any cull and i may change my mind again .

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Great decision. Isn't it time that we investigated whether humans or domesticated animals, like dogs, carry and transmit the TB virus.

    they do, as do wild deer, cats, foxes, pigs & rats however the latter species tend to get very ill of it whilst badgers don't. about 15% of badgers in areas where cattle incidence of the disease is high are infected, 85% are not

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    166. SBV
    And if people went vegan, you also wouldn't need to worry about bovine TB
    Because we'd make the cow extinct! Do you vegans seriously think we'd keep them as pets!!!!!!. By the same logic if we killed all the birds in the world avian flu wouldn't be a worry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    If it was slugs, beetles or frogs spreading TB, few would care about a cull.

    It's the cute, furry animal effect.

    If it's too difficult to kill badgers, won't it be proportionately more difficult to vaccinate them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    @26, 81, 111 & 181 “Myself” read all please.

    I remember a Kids TV series “the animals of farthing wood” on CBBC in the 90’s, it showed the death of animals caused by other animals, it also showed the impact on animals for human’s, Disney, cartoon network, Nick and so on never show this, we really must learn to separate our indoctrinated emotions form reality and the real world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    The sensless slaughter in response to the foot and mouth outbreak (which was caused by irresponsible farmers) caused me to become vegetarian. The pointless slaughter of badgers could make me become vegan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Bill Walker

    Just about everyone loves vegetables.

    With the exception of the vegetables who think they are the government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    To all these people saying "Vaccinate the cows" There is no vaccine. Farmers have been promised year after year that it's only a few years away but now most have given up hope. Hygiene and cramped, intensive conditions are said to be a cause. At home, our cows are clean in the fields, we still go down with TB. A cull needs to be tried, if it works, great, if not we go back to the drawing board.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Rational argument-killing animals

    Opinion will never change. If badgers were killing humans and causing chaos, a large proportion would object to any cull.

    Animal welfare makes many irrational.

    For the record, I hope the cull does not happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I'm a vet surgeon .The role badgers play in the spread of TB has been scientifically proven beyond doubt, as has the need for a cull

    The main DEFRA report used to justify culling actually says on page 5 "badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain"

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    I don't think the argument on the connection between badgers and Bovine TB has been concluded.The argument connecting dense populations & living conditions with TB was firmly concluded for Human TB decades ago and this argument rings true for Bovine TB. The BBC should ask why EU subsidy models are driving farmers towards larger heards, and consider the effect that is having on TB's prevalence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    This should not be an issue about standing up for 'charismatic' animals nor about satisfying the farming lobby. Listen to the science. Even the (unachievable) 70% cull level cannot deliver cost effective and sustainable control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    196 koz

    Not at all attracted by a nice badger steak then??????

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Great decision. Isn't it time that we investigated whether humans or domesticated animals, like dogs, carry and transmit the TB virus...both of them are far more likely to come into direct contact with cows than badgers are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    190. Adam
    Going for a cull rather than a vaccination problem is a no-brainer as vaccines are only 75% successful and only last 12 months.
    Unless you cull 100% of badgers your cull will be ineffective. Equally 'the vaccine only lasts 12 months' is garbage. Its only been tested over 12 months (about how long a beef cattle lives for). The human TB vaccine lasts for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I agree we shouldn't be killing Badgers, we should be giving them a vaccine in the form of baited food, But to force everyone to go Vegan ......... NO, no, no a thousand times NO! WE ARE CARNIVORES and that will never change, I love my Beef, Bacon and Lamb too much to give it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Supporters of badger/fox hunting consider badgers/foxes to be vermin, like rats. They say the badgers/foxes spread disease and often break into farms and kill animals.

    It’s amazing, add a / to the reasons for fox hunting and you have a new sport just waiting in the wings!


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