Badger cull to deliver ‘clear disease benefits’
Published:  09 October, 2013

Just under 60% of the badger population in the Somerset pilot zones have been culled, with early indications suggesting it was safe and humane, Defra said.

According to a speech this morning from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Secretary Owen Paterson, the chief veterinary officer has advised that the reduction will deliver “clear disease benefits as part of a four-year cull”.

Paterson also said in his speech, which was delivered to Parliament, that Natural England was considering an application from the cull company for a “short extension of two to three weeks, so as to maximise the disease control benefits achieved in this first year”.

Defra said: “We expect Natural England to make a decision on the application to extend the cull in the next few days. The advice of the chief veterinary officer is that further increasing the number of badgers culled would improve those benefits even further and enable them to accrue earlier.”

Lower badger numbers

Meanwhile, Defra also said new results from hair trapping showed that the estimated number of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire (the other pilot zone) was “significantly fewer in both areas compared to last summer when the last hair-trapping was done”.

It said the latest population estimate for Somerset was 1,450 compared to 2,400 last year, while the estimate for Gloucestershire was 2,350 instead of 3,400, as predicted last summer.

“We understand that the cull company in Gloucestershire will also be applying for a licence extension to Natural England today,” Defra added.

Welcomed information

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) welcomed Paterson’s statement and president Peter Kendall said: “After the Secretary of State’s comments today on the progress that has been made, I want to thank those involved in carrying out what is a very important first step on the long road towards eradicating TB in cattle, in badgers and from our countryside. Safety and humaneness are two really important tests.

“I am also pleased to hear confirmation from the government chief vet that the current cull operations in Somerset to date will deliver disease reduction as part of a four-year plan.”

Kendall added that the NFU’s “absolute focus” was the control of disease and pointed to bovine TB (bTB) cull figures of 38,000 cattle in Great Britain last year because of the disease. “These badger cull pilots are a very important first step in what is a 25-year strategy to eradicate this terrible and infectious disease,” he said.

The NFU also said it would not comment on further operations while they were taking place, but added that an independent group would continue to monitor the badger cull and would report its findings once the operations were completed.

Transparency

Yesterday, however, the RSPCA called for greater transparency about the badger cull and called on the government to share details about its effectiveness once the culls in Somerset closed.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “This cull has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning and into the information gap have fallen many rumours. Now that the six-week trial period is over it is time for the government to finally tell the public what is going on.”

Look at MeatInfo.co.uk's badger cull infographic to see the cull in figures.  




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