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 394.

    When will the cull supporters realise and publicise that once they have shot 70% of badgers they WILL STILL BE ASKING FOR AT LEAST 84% of CURRENT FUNDING FROM TAXPAYER because the levels of bTB will only drop by 16% at best?

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    The one true way to solve this problem once and for all is veganism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Apparently this is part of Schnapps' (or was it Fox or Green )new strategy for the Tory party to get closer to the Blue Collars- all badgers will now be wearing Blue Collars, tagged & tracked with satellite technology fresh from the Work & Pensions and Justice dept's technology team - and if they are found to be consuming alcohol or watching satellite TV or crossing boundaries they will be culled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    In nature, where no human is interfering to its life, everything lives in harmoney. Would human ever learn how to respect nature? We human need to acknowlegde that no matter what we try, if it´s against nature´s true character, nature will find its own way to sort out any issue. It does not matter whether that´s budger, cattle, hedgehog or even us, the human. Nature is much more wise than us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    The issue is not how cute badgers are, whether there are too many of them, nor whether farmers are profiteering or medieval. The issue is simple: CULLING BADGERS DOES NOT WORK to stop Bovine TB. I know it sounds like it should, but the facts show it DOES NOT. In fact in makes it worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Obviously most of the subscribers to this thread are townies.

    Badgers are vermin as are foxes when their numbers reach current proportions.

    Contraception is not viable therefore culling is necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Wonder how many more of my best cows will be shot before this mess is sorted out.
    On the plus side we are being paid out for each shot animal and the vets are making a killing on vets fees, only loser everyone in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Daz Dave's problem, middle class like badgers, farmers vote Tory. More middle class voters than farmers, farmers won't vote labour regardless. Put off killing badgers until after the next election

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    I wonder which kills more hedgehogs- poor road planning and fast cars, or badgers with whom the hedgehogs have evolved over millions of years. To suggest that badgers are causing a decline in hedgehogs is the same as blaming seals for the collapse of fish stocks- stupid. NFU has an inexplicable sway over this government- what landowning millionaires have in common with this government defeats me..

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    What do they mean they don't have enough marksman to carry out the cull? The main problem is that we have too much unnecessary legislation protecting badgers. If I had my way, anyone with a firearms license (in practice it will most likely be farmers) could apply for a license from DEFRA to shoot badgers themselves if there is a TB outbreak in their area. That'll be a big help for farmers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.


    "To all the anti-cull bunny huggers, don't complain about the price of British beef next time you shop, ah, actually you're probably all veggies."

    Why bother presenting rational arguments when you can resort to what you think are insults?

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    "In the 1960s, strict quarantine rules and the rigorous testing of cattle almost eliminated the disease from the UK(10)"
    [See "Ash Cloud" -]
    but farmers didn't like these measures and they were eventually dropped. The farmers have themselves to blame. Its Cattle-to-Cattle transfer that is the problem, which too much transport of livestock up-and-down the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    364 kissassandgiggle If they really had such a high IQ they should be ashamed of their language, homophobic behaviour and their general bullying tactics.
    An obvious disinclination to engage on the facts...bit like the Govt really!?!? Are you a Defra minister?
    Or was it a typo and 58 was intended?

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    The RSPCA, say that it's inhumane that badgers will be shot in the open without first being trapped in cages .. yet it is seems that it is ok to shoot foxes in the open. Why? TB costs this country millions of pounds every year and causes so much suffering. It's time that something is done to try to eradicate it .. whether it be by culling badgers or by a vaccination. programme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    I do also wonder what impact there would be on the environment if there were little or no badgers in these regions. Would there be an impact on the wild life food chain which could actually prove to have worse long term effects to farmers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    The government's own report stated that a carefully conducted cull would reduce TB in cattle by 16% over 9 years. So lets say that's 2% improvement each year. By who's definition is this a worthwhile and scientific solution??? It's just a pathetic, ill-thought out attempt to be seen to be doing something rather than nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    At some point, a decision must be taken as to where our priorities must lie.
    In the preservation and conservation of all badgers, or in the agriculture of cattle farming ?

    With an increasing population, cattle and dairy industries are far more valuable to the UK economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Badger's "press on" with Government cull, would be a far more engaging scenario.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    The map above shows badgers pretty well spread throughout the country while the bovine tb cases are concentrated largely in one large block.

    This suggests the problem is not the badgers. It is probably related to farming practices and cross contamination via markets and bovine cleanliness in transport.

    More work required before culling justified.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Apparently the Tories detailed study found that these Bodgers weren't crossing into other Parties' Constituencies after all, so Schnapps (or was it Fox or Green) who said no need for this Tory gerrymandering as it didn't affect the 40 constituencies that the Tories are targeting! So the cull was cancelled!


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