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 334.

    329. budgiebird

    "Pity they don't listen to public opinion about closing tax loopholes and making sure that the wealthy and large Companies pay their fair share of taxes then."

    Couldn't agree more! Hopefully they will, although unfortunately it seems more people protested about culling badgers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Phissst! ahh just opened another can of the brew, i just wish i could U turn like Cameron, but the beer is talking now,so why don't we just cull the cattle instead........ mostly there kept in one place, ie a barn and its easy too as there not nocturnal............... looking at the figures it would be cheeper too

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Badgers are very nice to see I agree. But not dead on the side of roads and not nice to hear during winter mating season. They are getting more numerous, but badgers don't worry me. Human TB in the UK had been eradicated. But it has been imported from Pakistan and its on the rise dramatically. Spitting TB on a street near you. But the media worry about badgers and cows being harmed. Bizarre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    For those who are interested there is an e-petition against the badger cull set up by Brian May. Please add your name and hopefully the cull will be blocked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    I have no objection to culling if it helps the general natural environment. eg. Deer have no natural predators since we wiped out wolves, so their number needs keeping down, to protect woodland. However, the largest culling trial ever, costing millions, led to the consensus view that culling doesn't work well economically. Bovine TB increases for 5 years and then falls by only 16% after 10 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.


    "I don't have a problem with this government making u-turns. It shows that they actually listen to public opinion and alter policy accordingly. The benefit of democracy!"

    Pity they don't listen to public opinion about closing tax loopholes and making sure that the wealthy and large Companies pay their fair share of taxes then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    Regarding the defra map of badger populations and bovineTB in cattle displayed on this site. When it states confirmed cases are we talking about tested cattle or cases confirmed by biopsy after slaughter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    Hopefully this government will not last long enogh to bring back the cull next year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    kill them off make room for the hedgehog i say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    The right royal bloodline perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    Another day another u turn....the omnishambles continues apace......can this lot do anything without making a right royal (insert rude adjective of choice) of it...???

    Cameron seemed so plausible in opposition, but it was all just a PR smokescreen to get power, nothing surprise really from someone whose only real job ever was as a PR man......Tony Blair with even less competance....

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    The government says vaccination is 50% to 60% effective. The science shows that culling badgers year after year and wiping out at least 70% of them may be 16% efefctive. So the government encourages a cull and withdraws funding for vaccination development. WHY?

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    301. budgiebird

    "Yet another U-turn by this make-it-up-as-you-go-along government."

    I don't have a problem with this government making u-turns. It shows that they actually listen to public opinion and alter policy accordingly. The benefit of democracy!

    I wish the last Labour Government had made some u-turns, that way we might have avoided illegal wars and a nearly bankrupt economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    It's a known fact that there is a link between may animals & diseases & Virii, but to put the onus of TB solely on Badgers, without an alternative being considered from the cull is purely idiotic. Farmers in the UK need to look closer to home for possible methods that can be applied to prevent their own spread of the disease

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    @298. blastygoose
    There already is a 'sport' called 'badger baiting' - here a group of people (would call them men but thats wrong, but they are normally country folk) dig out a badger (safety.. several humans, 1 badger), then spades are used to break its back so the creature is crippled and can't run, then watch as their dogs tear it apart... aren't humans nice,kind, brave creatures?

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Once again this government has shown that it has not princibles or the courage of it's convictions,yet another U turn just to appease a small loud mouthed minority.When home produced food runs short and prices rocket through the roof,who will this lot blame then?
    Perhaps we should eat the badgers instead,Oh do they produce milk too??

  • Comment number 318.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    @ 166. SBV

    Or alternatively, since we all evolved to be omnivorous and that is in fact the healthiest way of living for a human, we could all keep eating how we like and ignore your vegan preaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    We need to sort out bio security........ I know what to do, keep the wildlife out of the countryside and a total blackout on news on this...... quick get Malcolm Tucker to spin this................. U turn

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    My comment earlier should have read "It's a shame they didn't delay the NHS reforms until after the risk assessment was published." I expect most of the five people who read it would have understood what I meant.


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