NFU hits out at badger cull decision as farmer loses quarter of herd

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond has said that government decisions have left farmers’ hands tied, while bovine TB destroys their businesses.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson recently announced that the nationwide badger cull roll-out would be suspended, deciding instead to concentrate on the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Raymond made the statement after the news that one Dorset farmer was set to lose nearly a quarter of his dairy herd to the disease. The NFU president said: “Today is just one example of what is happening on farms across endemic TB areas.

“It is a farm with a closed herd; no cattle are brought onto the farm. The only TB disease route is the badger setts that surround these fields. Without the ability to control these badgers, farmers are fighting to protect their cattle from a terrible disease with their hands tied firmly behind their backs.”

The government made its decision to suspend the roll-out after the recommendations of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which raised concerns over the efficacy and humaneness of the current pilots.

Having visited the aforementioned Dorset farmer, Paul Gould, Raymond added: “This TB breakdown only goes to emphasise the importance of controlling the reservoir of TB in wildlife. The decision not to extend the pilot culls is a bitter disappointment to farmers like Paul. Without being able to control the wildlife that is spreading disease to their cattle, they are rightly hugely frustrated and angry. It has a stranglehold on their business.

“Farmers continue to bear the brunt of regulations too. More and more we are seeing tighter cattle controls introduced, but they are pointless without also tackling this disease in badgers.”

Bill Harper, chair of the National Beef Association’s (NBA) TB Committee also showed his disappointment at the government decision, announcing that giving up after the first stage was “unforgivable”.

He said: “TB remains devastating for cattle and cattle farmers, and its spread remains unhalted with all areas of the country at risk. Statistics released by Defra show there were 4,815 new herds infected with TB in 2013 in Great Britain, with 90 cattle a day slaughtered in an attempt to control the disease.”

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