15/09/2010

Badger Culls Planned By Government

The Government has published proposals which would allow farmers to cull badgers as part of measures to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

Defra has launched a consultation on the proposal to issue licences to farmers and landowners who wish to cull and/or vaccinate badgers at their own expense.

Argiculture Minister Jim Paice said that the licences would be subject to strict criteria to ensure that the control was done "effectively, humanely and with high regard for animal welfare".

He said: "Bovine TB is having a devastating effect on many farm businesses and families, especially in the west and south west of England. Last year, 25,000 cattle were slaughtered because of the disease and it cost the taxpayer over £63 million in England alone.

"We can't go on like this. It's clear that the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread."

The consultation proposes issuing licences under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to enable farmers and landowners to cull badgers, at their own expense. Under the Government's new proposal, they will be able to use vaccination either on its own or in combination with culling. They will also be asked to explain how they intend to minimise the negative effect in the surrounding area identified by the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

Culling will also only be allowed in areas where there is a high incidence of bovine TB in cattle.

The Government believes that badger culling is necessary to reduce the spread of bovine TB. The main evidence comes from the RBCT, which took place between 1998 and 2007. The results of this major Government-funded trial concluded that badger culling, done on a sufficient scale, would reduce the incidence of bovine TB in high incidence areas.

However, there are those who dispute this study and cast doubt on whether a cull works. In 2008, the Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the Badger Trust against the Welsh Assembly Government's plans to introduce a trial badger cull in Wales.

The consultation will close on December 8.

(KMcA)

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