Humans v Nature : Farmers criticise badger cull delay

American badger.
Image via Wikipedia

The much-maligned and misunderstood badgers are still being used as a scapegoat …. The Guardian reports on latest developments   

National Farmer’s Union says ‘biosecurity’ measures are not enough as figures show rising rates of TB infection in cattle

Farmers have expressed their frustration at the government’s delay on a badger cull after the latest figures showed rising rates of TB infection in cattle.

The most recent official figures, for January to March this year, showed a 6.3% increase in the number of new herds testing positive for bovine TB on the same period last year.

The National Farmers’ Union said that in the worst affected areas, such as Staffordshire, Shropshire and Dorset, the increase was over 30% on the previous year.

The national increase was 4.4% once a rise in the number of herds tested was taken into account, the provisional figures revealed.

The NFU said the figures showed that “biosecurity” measures to keep cattle and feed away from wildlife such as badgers, which are known to transmit the disease, and increased testing were not enough to tackle the problem.

The NFU chief farm policy adviser, John Royle, said the coalition government’s delay in bringing in the promised cull of badgers in areas which are hotspots for the disease was “completely frustrating”.

The new government had promised it would bring in a “science-led” policy on tackling TB in cattle, which costs the taxpayer and farmers millions of pounds a year to deal with, which would include culling.

Last September it launched a consultation on how a cull could be implemented, alongside other measures such as vaccinating badgers for the disease, but a legal challenge to a cull in Wales has held up a final decision in England.

his week, the Welsh assembly put its plans for a cull on hold while it conducts a review of the scientific evidence.

Farmers in England have been urging the government to allow them to implement a cull, but animal welfare and wildlife groups are opposed to the killing of badgers, which are protected wild animals, and claim a cull is not the answer.

Royle said: “Despite strict cattle controls that include regular testing, isolation of infected cattle before slaughter, herd restrictions preventing trade, the slaughter of any dangerous contacts and testing every 60 days until the herd has two clear tests, the national and regional incidence of TB in our herds continues to rise unabated.

“Improved wildlife biosecurity awareness has led to practical measures being taken in many instances and the industry recognises the role it can play in reducing the impact of TB on farms.

“However it is not a guaranteed safeguard from infection. We must break the cycle of infection from badgers to cattle or we will never be able to get on top of this terrible disease.”

He urged the government to make the promised decision and provide licences for trained professionals to cull badgers in areas where there are high incidences of the disease.!/badgertrust



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