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TB badger culls start in Somerset

Badger culls to try and control bovine TB begin in Somerset today, the National Farmers’ Union has stated. Around 5,000 badgers will be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks to control the disease, which can pass from infected badgers to cattle.

A cull in Gloucestershire will also begin later this week. Defra has estimated that the culls could reduce the number of new cases of TB in herds by 12% to 16% over nine years.

But activists warn that a cull is both inhumane and ineffective. Groups of protesters have been disrupting traps and bait laid to lure badgers out, before they are shot. Marksmen will not be allowed to shoot if there are people present.

Dominic Dyer, a policy adviser at Care for the Wild, said: “People are shocked when they find out that only 15% of badgers have TB and that the Government will not even be testing to see any of the badgers they intend to kill have [the disease]. These two facts together completely undermine the cull policy.

“We are seeing a political kneejerk reaction to a problem. It is liable to backfire on the Government and the NFU. People are outraged.”

In a letter to members, National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall said: “I am writing to let you know that the first pilot badger control operations have begun. This is an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry.

“I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with TB on farm – some of you for decades – and I hope now you will feel that something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers.

“I hope that when time shows that these culls have reduced TB in cattle – just as has happened in Ireland – that even more people will understand that while sad, these culls are absolutely necessary.”

Environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won't get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That's the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.

“That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly. If we had a workable vaccine we would use it. A vaccine is at least 10 years off.”

And a Defra official said: “Bovine TB is spreading across England and devastating our cattle and dairy industries. In TB hotspots such as Gloucestershire and Somerset we need to deal with the infection in badgers if we're to get a grip on TB there. No country has dealt with the disease without tackling infection in both wildlife and cattle.

“We are working on new cattle and oral badger vaccines but they are years away from being ready and we cannot wait while this terrible disease spreads.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

Image c. Ben Birchall/PA Wire


Kevin   27/08/2013 at 12:21

It has worked in Eire, so carry out the cull, and let the science and statistics prove its worth.

Georgina Gittins   27/08/2013 at 13:11

If only 15% of badgers have TB, + no carcasses are to be tested for TB, where are the statistics going to come from? I haven't read a scientific report yet which supports the cull. I think our dairy farmers deserve better.

Noreen New   27/08/2013 at 14:40

The vaccination of badgers and cattle is the only long term solution. Badger vaccination trials are proving successful in eliminating the disease in badgers and this would be cheaper than a cull employing trained marksmen. We seem to forget that this disease is spread amongst cattle, hence the name Bovine TB, proper animal welfare and less transportation of livestock would also help stop the disease from spreading.

Sue Bennison   28/08/2013 at 11:19

I think the culling of badgers in an entire area is outrageous. How is Bovine TB transferred from badgers to cattle? How is Bovine TB transferred from cattle to badgers? Where is the evidence? Badgers should be tested to see if they carry the disease before killing them as is done with cattle. After this mass killing will any evidence be published to show that this action has been successful.

Sarah   29/08/2013 at 09:02

There is a bigger population of rats in the uk sewers which carry more and worse diseases than badgers but lets not worry too much about them hey?

Mrsm   09/09/2013 at 14:58

I live in a part of the country that is swarming with badgers. They invade our gardens and steal out fruits and vegetables. They will also take a chicken. But the worse thing about badgers is that they have decimated the Hedgehog population. Unless you have heard a badger killing a hedgehog, you will have little idea of the agony. They will eat it from the soft underbelly, during this time the hedgehog is screaming and continues to do so for some time. In the morning you may well find just the prickles on the lawn. Our garden was a haven for hedgehogs - since the rise in the badger population I have not seen one for some years. The badger has no natural enemy - I would think not - it is a very powerful animal so much so that foxes and cats pay them great respect. The hedgehog is now a rare animal and will be extinct in no time if badger numbers continue to grow at such a rate. In the countryside they are becoming as big a problem as the fox. It least I can put up a fence to keep the foxes out - the same does not apply to Mr. Brock. See for details of the Irish situation

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