Badger row flares up in Ireland

The NFU has accused the Badger Trust of twisting facts and being economical with the truth in the report it has published jointly with Badgerwatch Ireland on bovine TB and badgers in Ireland.

The badger report suggests the Irish Government's policy of culling badgers within two kilometers of a TB outbreak has been a failure. But the NFU said the policy had reduced the number of cattle slaughtered as TB reactors from 42,000 in 2002 to 24,104 in 2006, a reduction of 42.6%

The NFU also dismissed the Badger Trust's claim that badgers in Ireland face "extermination". It said in 2005 approximately 3,250 badgers were killed out of a population estimated in 2004 at around 200,000.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: "This is a highly misleading report which twists some facts and ignores many others.

"TB has always been a much bigger problem in Ireland than it is in the UK. But the partnership approach adopted by the Irish Government in working with the farming community has achieved a very significant reduction in the incidence of TB, and in the long run that will be good news for badgers as well as for cattle and farmers.

"In Great Britain, by contrast, the number of new TB outbreaks increased by 11% in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2006. We ought to be learning from the Irish experience, not misrepresenting it.

"This is only the latest example of the Badger Trust's state of denial over the role that badgers play in transmitting TB to cattle and other wildlife, and it is doing their credibility no good at all.

"They would be serving the cause of the badger much more effectively if they faced up to the facts of the matter and worked with the Government, the veterinary profession and farmers towards achieving a healthy badger population rather than pretending that the problem doesn't exist and perpetuating a situation in which thousands of sick and diseased badgers are dying slow and painful deaths each year."

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