Badger cull fails to meet targets

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall has said the organisation is fully supportive of a move to stop the badger cull in Gloucestershire, as announced at the weekend (30 November).

The decision to end the cull in the area, following Natural England’s agreement to extend it back in October, was a result of the cull company’s inability to meet its targets.

Initially, 70% of Gloucestershire’s badgers were to be culled in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB), which badgers have been accused of spreading, but only 30% were removed. The maximum figure was revised down to 58% upon the extension of the cull by Natural England, but cullers also missed the new target, resulting in the withdrawal of operations on Saturday.

Worthwhile

Speaking before the cull was stopped, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Farming Minister George Eustice said: “The extension to the cull has been worthwhile and has removed a significant number of badgers, which will make a difference to disease control in the area.
“Now that the cull company is seeing fewer badgers on the ground, I agree with the decision to stop the pilot cull for this year and I pay tribute to all those who, in the face of provocation, have worked so hard.”

Kendall, meanwhile, explained the culls were set up to demonstrate that removing badgers to help combat bTB could be done humanely, safely and effectively. He added that the landowners, contractors and farmers on the ground had allowed the operation to be carried out safely and humanely, “despite intense provocation and intimidation by some anti-cull protesters”.

The president now awaits the final report on the cull, which is expected in the New Year, and said the NFU remained committed to the reduction of bTB.

Celebrations

Wildlife groups were pleased at the announcement to stop the cull and Dominic Dyer, policy advisor for Care for the Wild, an organisation against the culls, said protests could now turn into celebrations.

“We must take a moment to celebrate the utter failure of a badly planned, poorly executed, inhumane cull. There would be some joy in saying ‘we told you so’ to the government, but hundreds of badgers have already been killed for absolutely no discernible reason,” he said. And he lamented the fact that the government could try to roll out the cull to other parts of England next year.

David Bowles, RSPCA head of public affairs, echoed Dyer’s view and said: “At last the government has acknowledged that the culls have failed – they have failed to reach their target numbers and failed to do it in the allocated time. We just cannot understand why it took so long for this realisation to hit.

“At the end of the initial cull period in Gloucestershire it was patently clear that the numbers of badgers being killed were way off the intended target. The farce should have ended then.”

A final update on the Gloucestershire pilot cull is expected to be made today in Parliament.

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