Industry welcomes badger cull go-ahead

The National Beef Association (NBA) and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have welcomed Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s announcement that two badger cull areas will be licensed in 2012. The pilot culls will take place in early autumn to determine how safe, effective and humane the method is before potentially expanding it to the rest of England.

Hamish McBean, NBA chairman, said: “We congratulate Mrs Spelman and her colleagues within Defra for moving this forward and creating a structure that allows this work to be done legally and effectively. We hope this will set an example to some of the devolved governments that have a TB problem but are not addressing the reservoir of disease in wildlife.

“While it is with regret that some badgers will be removed, populations have exploded in many parts of the UK and it is impossible for the cattle industry to get a grip of TB without looking at the wildlife element too.
“Farmers want to see badgers on their farm and the NBA believes these control measures will ensure those badgers are healthy, which will also ensure a healthy and thriving cattle population too.”

NFU president Peter Kendall also said he was relieved by that decision. He said: “Today is another massive step forward in achieving our end-goal of a healthy countryside – both for badgers and for cattle. I commend Defra for introducing these two pilot areas to confirm the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting.
“Controlling TB in the areas that have high and persistent disease levels will help to save cattle and reduce the risk of TB in other areas of the country that are currently without TB. That has to be in everyone’s best interests.”

Spelman announced today that an independent panel of experts would oversee and evaluate the pilots over a six-week period and report to ministers in an effort to tackle bovine TB. She said: “Bovine TB is a chronic and insidious disease, which is having a devastating impact on farmers and rural communities. Unless further action is taken now, it will continue to get worse.

“There is great strength of feeling on this issue and no-one wants to see badgers culled. But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has successfully controlled the disease in cattle without tackling its presence in wildlife as well.

“We already have a robust set of cattle controls in place, and we plan to strengthen them further, but the scientific evidence shows that unless we tackle bovine TB in badgers we will never eradicate it in cattle. Ultimately we want to be able to vaccinate both cattle and badgers and plan to invest a further £20m over the next five years on the development of usable badger and cattle vaccines. However, these are still years away, and we cannot say with any certainty if, or when, they will be ready.

“We are clear these pilots must be carried out in accordance with strict licensing conditions so that they are effective, safe and humane. Natural England will carefully consider two licence applications, pre-selected by Defra, and will assess them against the criteria set out in the guidance I am publishing today.”

The NBA added that the cattle industry was working to put forward a list of suitable areas for the pilot culls, which need to have clear physical boundaries to reduce badger movements.

> NFU teams up with Badger Trust

> Pilot badger cull plans revealed

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