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 274.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    On the map badgers cover Ireland yet there is no TB in cattle....looks like no correlation, perhaps the science needs to be redone. Speed up the process of vaccination for cattle and badgers. We cannot victimize all wild animals in our way. We are constantly fighting to keep animals from extinction. Once the UK had bears wolves and other wonderful birds butterflies etc all made extinct by humans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Reading the DEFRA report it seems clear that culling will not produce the desired results. Their recommendations are for more cattle-based approaches, which seem logical.

    They suggest routine testing at shorter intervals, more control on herd movement, pre-movement testing, more focus on breakdowns in low-risk areas and possible whole-herd slaughters for chronically infected herds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    233. Tania
    1 HOUR AGO
    Farmers should be made to pay for vaccinations, I have to vaccinate my dog, if you can't afford to care for your animals then you should not keep them.
    I'm anti-cull & pro-vaccine (I make human vaccines BTW) but its worth reminding you that you CHOOSE to vaccinate your dog (I do my cats). The law doesn't require it. Plus the farmers will just pass the cost onto us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    My opposition to the badger cull has nothing to do with the supposed 'cuteness' of badgers. You could wipe out 100% of the badger population and bovineTB would still exist - the clue is in the name. We need to vaccinate cattle who are confined to a specific area, unlike the wild badger population. It's time to demand that the EU allows such a cattle vaccination programme to be undertaken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    What a bunch of ditherers!
    Who gives a toss what a few animal rights "activists" want, I certainly don't and was not consulted upon my views so why take any notice the usual anti hunting, anti eating of animals brigade and anti farming nuts. I see dead Badgers every day of the week on our roads, there are so many of them they are a safety hazard to motorcyclists and car drivers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    I must say the map above illustrates absolutely no correlation between badger population and the presence of TB. I hope there is more convincing evidence than this to justify widespread slaughtering of anything!

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    235. onothimagen

    According to research into this vaccine, about 50% will have full immunity, ~25% partial and ~25% no effect. This vaccine is most effective in neonates and lasts for 1 year so in a long term herd (cows on the farm for 8+ years) it seems pointless...oh, and it's banned by the EU.

    I agree with your point about the TB test though, it is badly flawed and work needs to be done on it

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    As DEFRA have proved, vaccinating badgers against bTB has almost no protective effect; it has more effect on cows but once again is not an effective protection. Repeatedly culling cows has little effect on TB incidence; to control it we need to control the wildlife reservoir. New Zealand culled possums there to great effect, we ought to be culling infected badgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    This is good news. A rare good decision from the government.
    Though the cynic in me tends to believe that this isn't for the benefit of the badgers, more like not wanting to upset the voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    As an ex Animal Health Officer I can assure you defra is incompetent in most things it does but for TB in cattle it has got things just about right. Badgers are too prolific and do harm to the countryside in digging out and eating bee and wasp nests, eating ground nesting birds eggs, eating maize and cereal crops etc.Uninformed protesters must see there are too many badgers now for their own good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Has anyone else noticed that Northern Ireland has badgers (denoted by the orange colour) but has no reported cases of bovine TB..??

    Are they doing something that the mainland UK is not?
    Or is it a case that the there maybe cases of TB, but they are 'calculated' in a different manner ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    The Tories will listen to their land-owning farmer chums over scientists any time...

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    For once, a politician parking a problem in the long grass is beneficial to the subject matter!

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    254: "Farmers and the NFU just like killing things and not take any responsibility"

    For those posting ignorant comments like the above you forget that farmers are the custodians of our countryside. Put them out of business and you lose the very people who ensure that we have a countryside at all and who undertake valuable, often unreported, conservation work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Common sense at last.
    The science is (was) at best dubiuos!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Why do we feel the need to export beef when we import more than we sell....surely jusdt innoculate the cattle....job done?
    We don't innoculate because the cattle cannot be exported!

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    everyone that thinks badgers should not be culled are vegetarians!!!!!!! and you should go home and take a long hard look at yourselfS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! beef + bacon > badgers LOL

    beef LOYAL!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Most of the Badgers I know are going to go underground for while till all this dies down.
    Or dress as Foxes and Squirrells.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    This Badger cull should not of even be considered, the amount of dead Badgers I see along a busy A road killed by vehicles is a sad reflection on these creatures at the hands of humans


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