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 194.

    A lovely thought. If this cull gets postponed again its possible that the badgers will outlive this inept government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    The reason why they won't innoculate is because current tests can't distinguish between an innoculated animal and an infected one. Bovine TB has a wide range of vectors including ferrets, stoats, badgers, weasels,rodents and deer are we to cull all wildlife so farmers can economically produce burgers? Test for TB, cull the infected and then innoculate the rest. Cattle identified as TB innoculated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    So this U turn number 8. What a complete bunch of dozos. They were told many times that what they were proposing was based on poor incomplete research. Now pressure from the electorat eand the polls telling them that the writing is on the wall they have suddenly turned up their previously turned off hearing aids. Wont make any difference to the Corby bi election or the general election!

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    YES! Its not all black and white.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Going for a cull rather than a vaccination problem is a no-brainer as vaccines are only 75% successful and only last 12 months. If we have to make badgers extinct in this country as a way of controlling TB, then so be it. And I still can't believe Forrest of Dean District Council voted to oppose the cull in their area. Do they seriously think badgers are more important than our cattle industry?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    How about it being the cattle that give badgers the TB. That would be more the case. Ofcourse the farmers want the badgers removed form their land but I doubt there will be any decrease in Bovine TB even with no badgers in the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    This stinks of a climbdown. Somebody must have realised that signing off on the extermination of our most beloved wild animal was political suicide.

    And a bloody good thing, we have no right to wipe them out. This country has precious little of the wild left in it and it's to our detriment.

    If cattle farming is unprofitable in those areas, then stop cattle farming in those areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I understand that badgers are causing big problems for the farming community, however, this does not mean that the government should resort to Nazi tactics. I agree with Kirsstoff and believe that a better considered scientific approach should be put into action. The conclusions that the government have drawn clearly show a lack of compassion towards innocent animals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Your opening paragraph is completely wrong. The delay is not due to protests- it's because they couldn't do it in time.

    TB in cattle is a massive and growing problem. It is costing everyone a fortune. The level of general ignorance on this issue is appalling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    We all know the devastating effects of a TB out break but surely we should invest in our understanding of the disease and alternative treatments than to try and eliminate it completely and be unsuccessful.
    Even if all the badger were killed TB wouldn't be eliminated. Maybe we need to investigate a consumer friendly vaccination for cattle and live stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Cows are so artificially bred that they are unnatural animals - they can't even survive on their own. And drinking cow's milk - how bizarre is that when you think about it? We should eat and drink more natural food sources. Badgers on the other hand are perfectly naturally adapted animals. My guess is that it all started with intensive farming (agribusiness). Badgers should be protected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    159. swerdna
    'The only opinions that count here are the views of farmers who have suffered BTB losses'

    So you don't think that taxpayers that prop up the inefficient farming industry in this country shouldn't have a say?

    The fact is farmers like the present system. They don't like the idea of vaccination because it would mean they would have to pay for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    #166, surely the likelihood, if it were true that farmers only care about making money from animals, that if they were to switch to arable farming, then they would only care for making money from plants instead. And so would go for high yield, GM, pesticide heavy methods. That doesn't sound any better or healthier to me, quite the opposite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    @26, 81 and 111.

    Millions of fish, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds are killed each year in rain forest clearing, to make way for SOYA, a product that Vegans and PETA swear on, the oil industry does the same in south America and Africa, oil deviate’s are used to make replacements for leather, plastics and so on, so why are those animals forgotten yet badgers are defened?

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    "This Gov't couln't lie stieght in bed - coment?"

    Do us the courtesy of typing properly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    If scientific reasoning is behind this cull and there is no better alternatives then I back the culls.
    It seems however that only for the purposes of this cull continuing is there anyone saying this is the case, all other statements I've heard contradict this interpretation of the science.
    If TB is so serious surely more resources need to be allocated to fighting it than "bullets for badgers"?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    167. Superkraken

    Obviously if killed after contacting TB then not fit for consumption.

    164. RunningBob

    Vaccinated cow products cannot be exported.

    Scientific evidence does show that TB needs to be controlled in wild life and optimum would be to vaccinate badgers, but not really possible. But proper trials need to be done to show shooting badgers without capturing them first is viable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Vaccinate cattle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I wonder how many diseases humans are responsible for. No plans to cull us yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Just now
    About time this government did something right

    This Gov't couln't lie stieght in bed - coment?


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