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.

'Convinced'

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
    +5

    Comment number 354.

    Why is everyone bashing the farmers?? It's the public who buy the cheap milk which forces cows to grow udders the size of cars and produce their own weight in milk each day. YOU should pay the correct price for milk, don't buy milk from supermarkets etc. How is the farmer going to earn the money to vaccinate his cows if 1) you don't pay for it 2) you don't buy his vaccinated cows milk. ??

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 353.

    I have seen many arguments for and against culling badgers and for me it can never be acceptable to take another creatures life unless it is for food.
    There is one creature on this planet that is responsible for more destruction than any other. With 7 billion of them they are becoming like parasites killing the planet yet nobody even wants to talk about controlling world population.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 352.

    343. Red_5

    "Now ask why they have not natural predators, oh thats right we culled all the natural predators in the UK without thinking about the ecology"

    I think that we killed off the last wolves and bears rather a long time before ecology was invented. But hey let's bring em back, nice to see and no threat to me as long as I can run faster than you, and it would reduce the housing shortage

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 351.

    If we can't accurately count the number of badgers how on earth will they know when they've culled 70% of them. 2 years down the line TB will still be around and farmers will want another 70% cull and before you know it the badger will be endangoured and we'll spend millions saving the few that are left.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 350.

    Populations of wild animals increase when they are healthy not when suffering debilitating disease

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 349.

    I am total against this cull of badger why not do the same as welsh assembly govererment and treat the badger against tb

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 348.

    342.KickAssAndGiggle What a wonderfully naive world-view expressed here. And you personally vouch for Peter Jones? A friend of yours is he? Do you know all his political affiliations? Any personal biases of his? Or is is just that he used the Absent Authority fallacy "Scientists agree that culling badgers..." tantamount to saying "They say...". Any scientific research paper reference? No?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 347.

    Just cull the government, its so much cheaper...... safer in the long run too!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 346.

    It strikes me that if the Badgers are thriving despite TB, as farmers insist, then we are not being told the whole truth of the matter. Badgers and Cattle have roamed this country together in the past and there was no problem until we brought in farmers and dairy herds - so what is the truth?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 345.

    339. WANAITT

    "Just goes to show how desperate the cronies of this incompetent govt are getting: equating badger culling to Labour's economics!!!!"

    I think you've totally missed my point! I was suggesting that u-turns on unpopular policies are a good thing in a democracy.

    Or would you prefer it if the government just pressed ahead with really unpopular decisions despite public opposition???

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 344.

    #338
    Agree, except if it impacts on food supplies. Our species should come first.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 343.

    312.Honeyway

    Now ask why they have not natural predators, oh thats right we culled all the natural predators in the UK without thinking about the ecology of this country, so you kill off most of the badgers, next they be saying a huge increase in hedgehogs now causing TB, where do we stop before we totally mess up our natural wild life

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 342.

    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."

    Who the hell here is qualified to argue with him? Until he changes his opinion, culling is essential.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 341.

    Can`t be too long before Cameron announces a further delay to he cull, announcing a decision stating that a decision will be made to cull or rehome badgers after the next election. A quick motion will be passed allowing badgers the vote from 2015 onwards before the cigars are passed out around the commons, job done ;)

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 340.

    There is as yet no bTB vaccine for cattle that does not interfere with the mandatory tuberculin tests. Under EU law it is not currently permissible to vaccinate cattle, because this could lead to false positives in tests. In 2011, about 26,000 cattle were slaughtered because of bTB, at a cost of £100 million to the taxpayer.
    -
    Why not try spending the money developing effective vaccines or tests?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 339.

    322.
    blastygoose
    9 Minutes ago

    Just goes to show how desperate the cronies of this incompetent govt are getting: equating badger culling to Labour's economics!!!! How many Tory Bodgers does it take to turn it all into a fiasco?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 338.

    Let nature be for god sake. If there's too many it's because there's meant to be. Bring them to Scotland, we have very little. Or introduce its natural predator. There's obviously a shift in the balance if something is over populated.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 337.

    Badgers cost the country loads and farmers even more with having to slaughter and dispose of infected animals. Kill a few thousand badgers to thin out the TB problem would not be a massive impact on the wildlife, it would benefit it. Bovine TB doesn't just spread to farm animals but all wild life the badgers infect.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 336.

    We aren't protesting because badgers are cute and cuddly. We're protesting because the Government is taking the cheapest way out again and it won't work. A 70% reduction in a badger colony will lead to the remainder migrating to other non-infected colonies and infecting them. There is also proof that farmers operating proper bio-security have suffered little, or at all with this in their herds.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 335.

    I find it hilarious that so many people seem to think that the evil Tories have dreamt up this scheme out of an inherent hatred of badgers.

    They're just acting on scientific advice, people. I know nothing about animal diseases; I'll defer to the wisdom of those who actually spend their lives studying this.

 

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