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 294.

    Is there a fast test out to check each badger for TB, before destroying it? Random shooting just seems so pointless. They should kill only the infested ones while improving the hygienic conditions of cattle at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    The farmers spread bovine TB by transporting infected animals to and from market in vehicles which are not disinfected. In fact, the vehicles they use are often not even properly cleaned. The vehicles and farmners are spreading the TB, not badgers.

    Where there Is a cull, Boycott all produce from acull area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    @ 260.tedgrundy. You couldn't find worse 'custodians of the countryside' than most of the farmers I've met. Their interest in the countryside is profit, nothing more - they consider only what needs to be done to optimise their yield and get the highest price per unit. I've seen them poison birds, level forests, leave sick animals to die and spray horrendous pesticides and fertilisers everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    I wish people would carefully read the science. Yes a 70% cull will reduce the incidence of bovine TB by 16%. But is this going to be a significant long term effect that is finacially worthwhile to all farmers? The scientists can't agree especially now that there seem to be more badgers than first thought. This is not a clear cut case, so we need to tread carefully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    The badgers originally caught TB from the cows as they dig in cow-pats for insects and worms etc which form a large part of their diet. The only sensible way to control TB is to VACCINATE the badgers. Farmers have always been keen to rid their land of badgers as the setts also cause them trouble (not good enough reasons to inhumanely kill thousands of a 'protected' species!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    @281 - Whattaloadanonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Doubt there are that many cattle left after the F & M outbreak. The (labour) govt then went down the kill-em-all route despite conflicting science, that imo was wrong, this is another shoot 1st justify later. Wrong.
    TB has been around for decades, good farming practice is route 1 to eradicating it. Much else is a political smokescreen.
    Also, who is going to do the culling? Personally I won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    I was driving down the the B3081 to Dorset, it was very early. A good distance down the the road, I saw a Land Rover had just pulled out of a junction. As it drove down the road, I saw something 'fall' out of the back. As I drove past what I thought was an old sack, I noticed it was a badger. Culling has been unofficially going on. And Bovine TB still exists.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    How about we go back to the good old days of closed herds - worked fine back then, no reason it couldn't work now.

    So what if the cost milk/beef went up in the shorter term, we'd save the cash from our tax bills to pay for the infected animals to be slaughtered....

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    There's much scientific evidence that culling changes badgers behaviour, so that their territory becomes much larger and they move about more, thus increasing the risk of them coming into contact with cattle. The scientist who wrote the report that this cull is based on has publicly said that their research evidence does not support a cull. The money should be invested where it will work...vaccine

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    @186 Indeed the level of ignorance is appaling - 'lets kill the badgers off and see it TB stops' is the scientific mentality of those who dunked heretics in the duckpond and if they died they were innocent or if they lived guilty.
    Please explain why gassing them in the 70s didnt work?
    Or why the very scientists who investigated the idea say it wont work?
    Better animal husbandry by Farmers will!

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    I have read some uninformed comments from anti cull people but to suggest Badgers are Carnivores is incorrect they are Omnivores. Vegans still need plant products fertilized by insects. Badgers are eating the pollinators in great numbers. Stop being so Badger orientated and get informed before commenting. This includes the RSPCA who are so one sided in the matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    A 9 year scientific study concluded that killing at least 70% of badgers in an affected area could SLIGHTLY SLOW the spread of the disease, whereas eradicating a lower proportion would make matters worse. This is not a solution to the problem.

    This government's decision to proceed is yet another example of scientific illiteracy among our politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    My Barrister friend has already given the best advice on the Q.T. .. bump them off in a Religious Slaughter Ritual .. The Animal Rights Loonies don't stand a chance against that one in Court.
    He tells me that Rights Groupies would be falling over to back me up on it.. so Brock had better watch himself !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    268. Xander

    "I hope there is more convincing evidence than this to justify widespread slaughtering of anything!"

    Weapon inspectors claim badgers are developing WMD's...

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    100. vetsouthwest
    "The role badgers play in the spread of TB has been scientifically proven beyond doubt"
    Have you ACTUALLY read the papers? The ISG report to Defra that sustained culling could bring "modest" reduction in disease spread. The Krebs Report concluded a "lack of evidence" for any benefit in culling. Its just hypothesis at the moment. Suggest you do some reading up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Ending live imports of cattle from countries where there is BTB is the answer to controlling it. Badgers are the governments scapegoats. The fiasco is about the amount of money government has to pay farmers for loss of cattle.Government is trying to appease farmers by putting the blame on badgers,so that government doesn`t have to pay. Badgers are NOT the cause of Bovine TB.Government policy IS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Yet another example of a government utterly incapable of making and sticking to decisions.
    How long has this subject been debated and many others with no action taken?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    re: 255.
    >>>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

    Yeeees, of course, killed by vehicles not killed elsewhere and dumped on the road - oh no definitely not. Dead badgers on the road is a thing that you very rarely used to see but now sadly a common sight. Has to be a reason...

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    I hear there are no badgers in the Isle of Man, but they still have TB.

    Also worth looking at this article

    which is about trace element deficiencies

    and see how Dick Roper eliminated TB in one of his herds


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