NFU president declares beginning of badger cull

The badger cull began last night (Monday, 26 August), National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall stated in a letter this morning.

Kendall wrote to NFU members, informing them that the first “pilot badger control operations” to curb bovine TB (bTB) began in Somerset during the night. “This is an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry,” he said.

He noted that many reading the letter would have suffered the consequences of bTB and hoped they would now feel something was being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers.

However, Kendall noted that the badger cull would remain a controversial topic, adding that some people would not agree with the underpinning science for the culls. But he said: “We cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of TB, while knowing the disease exists in wildlife, uncontrolled.

“I am confident, however, that through the combined efforts of farmers, the NFU and government over the last year to illustrate the impact TB has on farms, and the scientific basis for badger control, more people than ever recognise the need to address the disease in badgers.”

The start of the badger cull has shocked animal welfare organisations and chief executive of the RSPCA Gavin Grant said: “It is with a heavy heart that we today hear the news that the first shots have been fired at badgers in the pilot cull zones.

“The most tragic thing is that this suffering is so needless. Science has shown that this cull is not the answer to bovine TB in cattle. In fact, it could make things a lot worse. Vaccination and better bio-security are the only sustainable and true ways forward.”

Grant added that the RSPCA’s campaign against the culls would continue, while Kendall said: “We will be continuing to explain publicly the importance of these badger controls to tackle the spread of TB but we will not be making any further comments about the operational details of the pilots.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Owen Paterson told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme this morning that the pilot culls were to gauge how humane culling with marksmen is. He said that through culling and vaccination in the future, he hoped for a TB-free Britain by 2025.

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