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 634.

    632. Matthew

    flour is grown,
    And heres this thicko townie think it was made by grinding up cereal grain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    627 Its not a them and us mentality and taking that attitude is neither productive or an answer to the above. I am a city guy who has had experience of both lives so am qualified in what I'm putting forward. There are good and bad in all sectors as recent history has proven. A few badgers against the billions lost by us city boys no contest really is it 627!

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    @628. Name Number 6

    Sir / Madam, without sounding conceding in anyway shape or form, there are millions living in UK towns and cities, that have a complete disconnect with the food chain, after all meat is not magically from thin air and appears in little plastic boxes, flour is grown, and vegies and fruit need fertilizer, please do not be insulted by this,

    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    Badgers and mushrooms and snakes

    Bottom line is a vaccine is required for cows. Given that we've got rid of most of our scientists to monkeys in India and China i wouldn't expect a vaccine anytime soon,

    All in the name of the City of London. If you have any ire direct it at your policy makers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    Any policy that is postponed due to possible adverse publicity during a high profile event like the Olympics must be considered to be flawed. Genocide of a species seems like a total over-reaction to the problem, a “cheap” option maybe?
    The probability is more like "Cattle infect the wildlife, wildlife infect the cattle"… 100% inoculation of the cattle will resolve the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    Some comments on here are bewildering. People need to get a grip countryside management is required to keep the food chain going, without it you wouldn't have the countryside you see now. Badgers need controlling as do other animals to maintain good quality stock all round, its maintaining a healthy balance. To not control would be dangerous to the species themselves this is a basic fact of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    627. Matthew
    @26, 81, 111, 181, 548 and 606 Myself:

    Perhaps this is an issue of discontent, with those from the cities and towns not truly understanding wildlife management, and the farming industry,
    Like the futures markets that farmers depend on, all run by City boys!

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    @26, 81, 111, 181, 548 and 606 Myself:

    Perhaps this is an issue of discontent, with those from the cities and towns not truly understanding wildlife management, and the farming industry, even if you’re a vegetarian it is likely that you will eat Grain products like Vegies at some point were fertilized with cow dung, Bovine TB kills cows, so effects all food production so the cull is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    What I find very frustrating with this debate is that because it's an emotive issue every Tom, Dick and Harry assumes the role of expert and chimes in with ridiculous statements based on assumptions, inaccuracies and prejudices. This behaviour is particularly prevalent amongst the Animal Rights Lobby. The BBC constantly airing the views of rockstar Brian May hardly gives the opposition credibility

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    Of the other wildlife that could also transmit the diseals the birds feed on worms and beetles in faeces and frequently defecate into water wells on fields they are perhaps more potent transmission vectors even if not active carriers.
    The fact that they show TB lesions but not much viable bacilli might give important clues to understand if - how they clear the organism

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    619 true what you say,as with all professions there are good and bad practitioners,one could also argue that a 2nd cause of cross infection could be attributed to those of us who enjoy the c'side by walking ,mtain biking,picnicking,climbing etc,inadvertently picking up virus &bacteria on shoes/tyres etc and trans to clean ground,unfair to lay all blame on farmers ,do we close acc to c'side? no

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    Sorry to be dim, but why do they need to cull badgers?

    Why can't they just round them up and put them somewhere where there aren't any cattle?

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Badger is edible and was eaten in this Country during WWII and into the 1950s.

    It is still eaten in Russia.

    It's flavour will depend on what it's been eating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    whilst I would not objet to controlling the badger population as they lack preditors I do not see the point of their eradication. Whilst they seem to harbout bovine TB I am not sure what convinced the scientists that they are the main transmission vector. I found one study where scientists inocculated crows who showed the lesions and some still harboured TB month later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    interesting to read that lord krebs,an expert in ornithology,thats birds was,quote "the architect for the original RBCT under the last govt" i believe that was labour, and here they are grasping for support now against the cull,depends on how you interpret what was written,to me shows that neither the lords,lab or con know what they are on about,the bow group have double stds on this i fear

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    The biggest cause of farm diseases being spread is the farmers moving infected livestock around. All of the outbreaks outside the main area have been caused by farmers buying cattle from the infected area and transporting them to the clear area. They moved around foot and mouth and they have moved around Schmallenberg infected stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    It is very difficult to get information on the net as Defra pages are constantly thrown up. I have been told that as so often, the so-called EU ban on the vaccine is untrue and is just a propaganda thing. I can't find evidence either way. Looking into cases in Europe, the free movement of animals in the UK without docs is seen as one of the major causes of the spread of bovine TB, also unknown

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Talk about bad science!
    "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"
    That's based on a minimum 70% kill rate - but 'slightly' is meaningless, and there must be other factors involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    badgers dont taste nice so i believe, if they did , they'd be farmed, as for the cull if they can be shot with a bullet then could they not be shot with an innocculation, presuming one exists ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Why don't we stop eating the poor cows for a while and try eating the Badgers instead?


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