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 374.

    just CULL THE GOVERNMENT, and vegans you know it makes sense and supermarkets there're companies thats sets the price for cheap milk,meat,veggies!

    ps my bathroom is now Soap free due to a vaccination

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Surely the answer has got to be an effective vaccine. That can be taken via the food source for both badgers and cattle. The government should be investing in the relevant science not in compensating fat cat farmers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    2 Minutes ago
    Can't believe how much so many people here seem to hate farmers. Generally farmers put in 2x as many hours every day than the average working joe, for the same or less money, with the constant stress of over taxation and regulation.

    and how do you know aveage working hours?

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Cocentrate on finding a vaccination to resolve the issue. When you consider how long this debate has been going on you would have thought someone would have come up with a vaccine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    The backlash of frustrated farmers is awesome!
    Whilst 1 option might save 60% of bTB recurrence its ignored
    Whilst another option "might"save 16% it is pursued with venom.
    I am not sure that as a taxpayer we should be continuing to subsidise a business which ignores those %'s, wants to shoot a protected species and is prepared to simultaneously alienate almost its ENTIRE customer base.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    e-petition by Dr Brian May CBE

    So far 162,134 people can work out that killing badgers will only eliminate badgers, not TB.

    Stop wasting money on trying to organise badger culls, and spend money on vaccination, bio-security measures, and tests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    I just watched Newsround, it left me slightly confused, Wales vaccinates against bTB and Scotland is officially bTB free (it has OFT status), what is going on here, why are Wales using a vaccine which according to our Government is not worth it and why is Scotland bTB free. I suspect I will only hear more BS (badger smellies)

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Can't believe how much so many people here seem to hate farmers. Generally farmers put in 2x as many hours every day than the average working joe, for the same or less money, with the constant stress of over taxation and regulation.

    Besides, Badgers aren't nice, fluffy toy animals - they're filthy and aggressive - particularly dangerous to poultry who are kept outside at daytime to be free range.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    It is incredibly easy for anyone living in a city, with a job which doesn't depend on the variety and uncertainty of the natural world to dismiss the cull of badgers as evil.

    I commend the government for listening to expert opinion and hope it continues to do so on a more regular basis (as perhaps we all should).

    If the best way to deal with bovine TB is to cull badgers then that is regrettable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Surely Defra could provide the public with enough readily available information to show why they believe the cull is required, it seems to little information is available for the general public to make an informed decision to support this.

  • Comment number 364.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    16 Minutes ago

    A U-Turn is a mis hap - but 34 and counting???? Where's that postage stamp so I can give it to Gideon to write the Tory policies. With strategists like Gideon in charge no wonder even Hilton left the country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    "We will cull badgers"..... "We will NOT cull badgers".....
    Obiously no U-TURN there then.
    Do these Tory toffs understand the difference between "WILL" and "WILL NOT"? I don't think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Given the amount of livestock that are now kept indoors instead of walking around green fields I'm amazed there is a big problem.

    Factory farming is the result of the increasingly poorer deals farmers get from supermarkets and it is on the increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    I wasn't born an omnivore to eat like a herbivore, so stop your holier than thou vegan preaching and return to the 60s where hippies belong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Current practise is to trap and then shoot the badgers. Surely it is a small step from this to vaccinate and tag instead of shooting them. More humane, and just as effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    @vetsouthwest - Why not just vaccinate the cattle then ? The badger cull is clumsy ill-advised, unintelligent, NOT based on scientific FACT nonsense!

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    If the Continent uses vaccines why do we insist on killing all these lovely animals?
    Seems GB is very backwards and prone to activist thinking not real research.
    Still, any further chance to give farmers a hard time after all the taxpayer money we bung them, must be Min of Ag policy!
    What would old england DO without the Crats?
    Remember, badgers probably pre date Humans, so hey, who cares!

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    vetsouthwest so anyone/thing with TB should just be murdered and be done with it? What about, oh let's say, a vaccination program? What you spend on the jabs would save everyone in the long run.
    Equally stupid idea is everyone going vegan, veg head. We are humans, meant to eat meat, that's what the canine teeth are for or didn't you learn that in school here. Every vegan I've known has been ill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    It's odd that folk are in general support of a necessary culls to deer or even to population control culls overseas (even to animals such as elephants) yet they are in full uproar against it with badgers. Why is that? I live in an area where badgers are a bloody nuisance, I for one look forward to the restoration of natural badger numbers or else they will end up feral, like foxes or pigeons.


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