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4 April 2014 08:47:17 |Animal Health,Cattle,Rural Life,News,NFU

Farmers 'bitterly disappointed' over badger cull halt


Farmers have expressed great disappointment over Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's plans to abandon a roll-out of the badger cull programme.

CLA President Henry Robinson said: “Mr Paterson made it clear pilot culls’ roll-out has not been abandoned. Instead, the culls are being improved before being rolled out in other areas.

“Clearly, it is extremely disappointing the Environment Secretary felt he could not roll out the culls immediately using the recommendations of the Independent Expert Panel.

“However, we have no doubt Mr Paterson is fully committed to culling to help tackle the terrible scourge of bTB which is a daily nightmare for many of our farming members and will cost Britain £1billion over the next 10 years if no action is taken. We also appreciate the fuller package of measures he is putting in place to tackle bTB.”

The CLA President said: “We must not forget that the Independent Expert Panel’s report focused only on the methodology, not the necessity, of the cull. The cull is vital to bringing bTB under control, and cutting badger numbers is an essential part of the strategy.

“We would like more clarification from the Panel on how some of its conclusions were reached and how some statements are supported statistically.

“The Environment Secretary is right to welcome the Panel’s contribution and take some time to consider its views and develop an enhanced programme of culling for all the affected areas.”

He added: “The CLA will continue to work with the Government to ensure the aims of Defra’s newly released bTB eradication strategy are met, including culling in all the affected areas, and that this takes place as soon as possible.”
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Firstly, I want to thank those that helped manage and deliver these important badger cull pilots. They were the first time controlled shooting of badgers was used as a culling method and they were to test the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of this method. As pilots, there was always going to be the potential to make improvements as a result of knowledge gained. After all that is what pilots are for. They have helped to gain a greater understanding of how we can tackle the wildlife element of this terrible disease cycle.
“Importantly, the Independent Expert Panel has found this method of culling badgers by controlled shooting can be safe with best practice followed, even with the presence of protestors. And we do have to remember that some of these protestors carried out a sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment and were, in some cases, aggressive and completely irresponsible.
“While we don’t agree with all of the assumptions made in the IEP report, and we are concerned it paints a picture that is not recognised by those on the ground, we will need to examine the report in more detail. The panel does make some useful recommendations to improve the delivery of culling which will be implemented in Gloucestershire and West Somerset in subsequent years.
“TB remains a terrible disease for cattle and cattle farmers where it is persistent and high. Statistics released by Defra show there were 4,815 new herds infected with TB in 2013 in Great Britain, with 32,620 cattle slaughtered in an attempt to control the disease. As today’s strategy sets out, it is hugely important that any cattle controls go hand in hand with measures to tackle the disease in badgers. And culling must play a part in that where TB is rife.
“Members are our priority. For our beef and dairy farmers, TB remains a terrible disease which is having a huge impact on their cattle and their farm business.”
An MP who is working with the Zoological Society of London to introduce the first community-led badger vaccination trial across 200 km2 of Penwith peninsula in his constituency challenged Paterson to provide evidence that there’s “no point” in the project.

Andrew George, MP for the West Cornwall constituency of St Ives, was speaking in the Commons this afternoon when the Secretary of State issued his statement on the recent badger culling pilots.

The MP said: “This was a less substantial Government climbdown than was implied by the evidence. Clearly the Conservatives have left themselves room to go back to making up policy on the hoof; it’s only a one year stay of execution for badgers outside of the two pilot areas.

“The Conservatives don’t seem to understand that the badger cull policy runs the very high risk of making the situation much worse.

“The Secretary of State’s twaddle about there being “no point” in vaccinating badgers in bovine TB (bTB) hotspot areas is not supported by the science. Of course vaccination has no impact on infected badgers, but overall the Government’s own trials have demonstrated the benefits.

“The reason he doesn’t want vaccination projects in bTB hotspot areas is simply because he wants to keep the barn door open to advancing the mass extermination of badgers in those areas next year; even though that is more likely to worsen the prevalence of bTB than it is to improve the situation."

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