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 314.

    Push cattle to produce unnatural yields of milk, day in and day out. Nutritional and environmental needs of cattle do not match animals requirements. Cattle become sick. Cattle contract bacterial and viral infections. Give cattle loads of antibiotics and other drugs to mask above situation. Blame badgers. Kill badgers. Problem solved. Problem returns. Blame something else etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    "Since the 1930s, there have been four important measures used to combat bTB: very strict movement controls, thorough cleansing of livestock buildings, good ventilation and double fencing on all boundaries to prevent cattle in adjoining fields from exchanging saliva."

    Profit is destroying these four points.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    There are too many badgers and they are wiping out the hedgehog population. Their numbers have increased greatly since they were made a protected species. This was a mistake, their protection should be removed and their numbers drastically reduced. As they have no natural predators they should be shot in a controlled manner. Or don't you care about hedgehogs? Or cattle? They are animals too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    NZ has had a serious TB problem, spread by Possums. This is now under control by a combination of measures including widespread culling of possums. To protect the healthy badgers in the UK we need to deal with infected areas and protect the healthy areas. Farmers are under tighter restrictions as well. This can't be done by 1 easy solution but a combination of measures of which culling is 1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Yet again more public wasted on this governments incompetence. This government and the fools in it should be ashamed and give back their salaries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Maybe they are hoping they can do it under the cover of some other crisis?

  • Comment number 308.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    If the govt. has such an animal rights agenda, ban religious slaughter too. This is just populist points scoring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    This is good news as far as I'm concerned. There is nothing 'humane' about shooting badgers as the government and farmers would have us believe and experts have stated that it would have little if no effect. The really sad fact of the matter is that it was cattle that passed bovine TB to the badgers in the first place so leave them alone and vaccinate the cattle!

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    What a farce this all is! How can we ever think that culling them was acceptable? Meanwhile, cattle die and badgers face a bullet next year. It is shameful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Remember the days when farmers used to burn their fields after harvesting the crops? No need to bother nowadays, just plough endless quantities of manufactured fertiliser and weedkiller into the round instead. Farmers caring for your countryside...

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Scrapping the murder would have been better. Apparently the worry is that they won't kill enough of our wildlife so we had better wait until we are sure of exterminating more.
    Such a tiny % of cows are affected by badgers compared to the small amount from other cows - in all still a small number anyway. Having a world with humans, cows, pigs only is not a nice idea, but what farmers want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Did the Government suddenly discover Badgers vote Tory?

    As there was never any peer assessed evidence that a cull would have any effect on Bovine TB presumably the only reason to proceed in the First Place was Conservative voting Farmers.

  • Comment number 301.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    completely reasonable request, it works, it helps humans, they can live free, they ca run, but these people don't like it when you bad-mouth their darling badgy-poos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    281. Socialist Apocalypse The Thieves Amongst Us
    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.
    Your barrister friend will get his fee regardless of verdict...

    Finding a religion that sacrifices Badgers might be tricky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Instead of Fox Hunting, let's introduce Badger Hunting! This will save the tax payer the cost of the cull and give the upper classes something to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    The government predicts a 16% reduction in bTB from present levels over the period of the cull. However this should be compared to the no-cull scenario of bTB doubling every 4 years as it has done since 2001. If you want cattle in the countryside (and I believe they are vital for invertebrate and soil health and carbon capture as soil humus) then bTB must be proactively tackled in all species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Bagdgers are not the cause of TB, they are merely carriers of the desease. If it is costing farmers money , why dont they put their hands in their pockets, and pay to have there cattle vaccinated, or do they want us to subsidise them even more than we do at present. Always pleading poverty.
    What other business could leave property or land empty and get paid for it, by the tax payer

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    this is wonderful news - a real ray of sunshine in an otherwise day of doom and gloom. Well Done David Cameron et al !!!


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