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3,000 badgers to be shot in bovine TB battle as licence granted to cull

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 18, 2012

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Around 3,000 badgers are to be shot in the South West in the first wave of a long-awaited cull to curb tuberculosis in cattle.

Government agency Natural England yesterday announced it had provisionally licensed trained marksmen to carry out "controlled shooting" in Gloucestershire.

The move marks an historic step forward in moves to tackle the disease crippling farmers across the region and responsible for around 26,000 sick cattle being slaughtered each year.

The quango also revealed a second cull would be sanctioned in West Somerset within days. Both have been dubbed "pilots" to test the methodology of shooting free-running badgers.

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But if proved to be safe, humane and efficient over six weeks, the "pilots" will become full-blown culls and run for four years.

Pilot success would also pave the way for ten further culls a year in bovine tuberculosis hotspots, with others likely to be further down the South West peninsula.

The second wave will begin in June next year at the earliest.

Asked if he thought the first pilot culling licence was a positive first step towards a more widespread cull in England, new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "I very much hope so."

The first cull, announced after campaigners lost a fight in the High Court last week, is likely to start in around four weeks, once outstanding provisions have been satisfied.

The cull zone covers around 116sq miles (300 sq km) of West Gloucestershire countryside and could see at least 3,000 badgers killed.

The proportion of animals in the area put down is yet to be determined, but must be more than 70% to be effective, officials said. Though the figure has to be less than 100% for risk of breaching the Bern Convention, which outlaws the destruction of the protected species.

In backing the cull, called for by farmers after the first case of bovine TB in badgers was identified in the 1970s, the Government is pitting itself against animal welfare groups and critics who argue that the science does not stack up.

But ministers have used the same evidence that Labour deployed to dismiss calls for a cull, to argue that a 16% reduction in bovine TB incidents could result after nine years.

The Government says the figure is significant and stems knock-on effects. However, they admit a cull would spread the disease further if not carried out to the letter.

An outbreak on a farm costs a farmer around £12,000 and the taxpayer £22,000, Defra estimates, with the total state bill set to reach £1 billion by the end of the decade.

The South West has the highest disease rates in its livestock, with 23.6% of herds under restrictions at some point during 2010 – more than double the national average.

The Government is investing in cattle and oral badger vaccines, but are wary of their effectiveness. An injectable badger vaccine is now available but costly.

Against fears of vandalism and direct action against farmers and landowners involved in the culls, scant information of the locations has been published.

West Gloucestershire's pilot includes parts of the Forest Of Dean district and Tewkesbury. The West Somerset cull lies predominantly within the council district of West Somerset and partly in Taunton Deane.

Camborne and Redruth Tory George Eustice, who hails from a West Cornwall farming family, said: "TB is causing heartache for many farmers who are losing cattle from their herds and they will welcome this announcement because there is no example in the world of a successful attempt to tackle TB without also dealing with the problem in the wildlife population.

"While I want to see a TB vaccine introduced as quickly as possible to help control the spread of the disease, this will not cure those badgers already infected and will only protect healthy badgers."

But Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, said: "Nobody should be under any doubt about how appalling this disease is, and the suffering caused to cattle and farmers.

"But until we have new evidence that is irrefutable we are destroying a species of animal for little or no improvement over a long period of time."

Mary Creagh, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "The Government is pressing ahead with a badger cull despite their own official advice that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on the police, and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by the shooting.

"Ministers should listen to the scientists and can this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife."

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  • Charlespk  |  September 18 2012, 7:44PM

    17th. November 2011 9:41 pm Well, I read these posts this morning, and then I went out to spend a few minutes with my suckler cows and their spring-born calves, some of which are now almost as tall as their mothers. . They were grazing happily in some welcome autumn sunshine, and I thought; "We're due another TB test very soon; already had four tests in the past 12 months; we're pretty well tested to destruction round here.". . And the Dread stirs. "How many will they take this time?". They have killed over one third of my fine, mainly home-bred, healthy cows in the last year, more in previous years. . I want my cattle, not the "massive compensation" that Anonymous thinks I'm paid, (when the reality is that this year I will be £20,000 short on income, with almost no parallel reduction in my costs). Then I thought, "remember; it's your fault". What?. Why? . . What have I done? Anonymous says so; to the whole world. . Anonymous says that "cattle, farmers and Defra's failure…" are the "real root of the problem". He can't mean corn farmers; he must mean me. . I am the real root of the bTB problem. . But I've done all the required tests for years and years, so has every neighbour and beyond that I know, they just go on doing it and put up with the loss, hands tied behind their backs, slow motion execution. Or they give up. Some kill themselves. . Good riddance, they're the "real root of the problem". They leave desperate notes. And they leave families. Then I think: maybe Anonymous didn't actually mean "farmers". Maybe he (or she, apologies, I've never been to a christening where the priest says "I name this child Anonymous") meant "a very very few farmers". And I thought: "I don't tell Anonymous that he's a thief and a criminal just because a minute proportion of our society are thieves and criminals. Anonymous must mean cattle farmers. Anonymous isn't stupid, or ignorant, or careless with what he blags over the internet. If he meant "a very few" he would say that. . Anonymous knows stuff. And I thought: having got all the cattle in yet again, twice in one week, maybe raining on us all day, all the stress, will I have to hear the vet, one after another "another reactor I'm afraid". Will I be able to go on running them down the race?. Will I finally succumb to the overwhelming urge to walk off and say "test them your xxxxself"?

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  • Charlespk  |  September 18 2012, 7:43PM

    When I phone Animal "Health" and say "I don't think I can bring myself to load these fine cattle for such unnecessary premature slaughter, you're asking me to buy the bullets for my own execution". Will she laugh like last time; think I'm joking? . Think I'm joking. . Think I'm joking! . Will she think I'm joking? . Will I return happily home and tell Jane, "No worries, just another 15 going today; what's for tea?". . Will she say "What are they doing about the badgers?". . I'll say, "Nothing. . None have been even tested. All they do is talk and delay." They don't want to lose the vote of Anonymous. . Anonymous knows such a lot. Anonymous is a badgerist, and badgerism is a faith thing. . Anonymous's grasp of logic is so slender that he has just written that if we think badgers are the real problem why is it that the proposed slaughter of badgers will produce at best a 16% fall in bTB over 9 years. . But Anonymous doesn't understand that this is the Defra's guess; that the proposed cull will be on their incredible terms, not in winter so they can breed again. . No more than 70% of the population and so on. Anonymous has written that Defra's guess means that badgers aren't the "real problem". . That's the "logic". Incredibly, Anonymous doesn't understand that whether or not badgers are the "real problem" has absolutely nothing to do with Defra's culling proposals. . Anonymous won't even understand what I'm saying. . If he could understand, he could not possibly have written what he did. Maybe Anonymous will give us a little homily on the Scientific Method, like we had from Jdaven7034 last week. . Thanks in advance. And I say to the Ministry vet at the test, "it's not working is it?" "What isn't working?" he says. "Your policy to control bTB". "Well, we're clearing it from the cattle." he says. "Yes, you're clearing it from the cattle. . Like you have done since about 1930." . I need to remember. . It's my fault. . Anonymous is right. . It's my fault. .The farmers are the "real root of the problem". . And I'm one of them. . I hang my head. . I will not let despair take over. . I try and enjoy the autumn sunshine. Hard luck story?. No, that's exactly how it is here on the coal face, for thousands and thousands of us here in the West and Wales. . Exactly how it is. Newt is right. . This news story, sabotaged to revisit yet again the culling thing, was a real breath of fresh air. . The Badgerists, or some of them, stepping gingerly back from pure faith and dogma, to do a little experiment. Linking up with a very enlightened NFU man, five very enlightened farmers. . No doubt if there are good results, the Badgerists won't be worrying about lack of control experiments. It's light years away from a solution, but it's a supernova in terms of human progress. . Let's hope that the enlightenment grows; more tests ensue, and truly independent observers tell us what results they find. In the intervening years, while we carry on waiting, like we waited for Nick Brown, Margaret Beckett, David Miliband, Hilary Benn, Jim Paice and others, what will Anonymous have to say to me when they have killed my last breeding cow? . "Silly cow farmer, you were the 'real root of the problem'. . Ten of your mates disobeyed the rules." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christopher Sturdy

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  • Charlespk  |  September 18 2012, 6:49PM

    Start learning the subject so you all have some idea what you are talking about. Emails from Swiss vet (now living in the UK), Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL http://tinyurl.com/9p4eecn (open in a new window)

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  • Chelstonlass  |  September 18 2012, 4:48PM

    Incredulous2 - in that case why not live trapping? When they shoot 3000 badgers who's going to be sorry that most have them have died needlessly? Who- why me and a lot of others who despair at the decimation of wildlife - that's who!

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  • Stuboy13  |  September 18 2012, 3:17PM

    Has anyone even thought about what we are going to do if the badgers start arming themselves and plotting revenge attacks? Badgers are sneaky ba$tards - you have been warned.

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  • E_Badger  |  September 18 2012, 1:25PM

    Incredulous2, are you for real? They held a 10 year trial 'Krebbs' and it was proven that culling badgers doesn't stop cows from catching bTB, unless the control area is completely devoid of badgers. Apparently Owen Paterson has been quote as stating that culling badgers "will save them from the disease" ... of course ... because they will ALL BE DEAD! Also can someone please enlighten me as to why the ConDem government, who are so concerned about the plight of farmers, have persuaded DEFRA to suspended five out of the six of the bovine bTB vaccination trials? Is this so they have a ready made excuse for shooting perhaps?

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  • Incredulous2  |  September 18 2012, 9:56AM

    Chelstonlass - you say you cannot condone culling until it is proved to be essential - what do you think the purpose of the trial culls is? This is an opportunity to possibly prove the farmers (and pro-cull lobby) either wrong or right. Unfortunately it is likely to be interfered with by 'badger huggers' which will make any results inconclusive. This will not mean the cull is over, it will just mean that other trials cull will have to be planned to try and get a definitive result. 'Badger huggers' will then be responsible for the deaths of more badgers than if they stood back and allowed the cull to happen first time around.

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  • Chelstonlass  |  September 18 2012, 9:16AM

    I'm ashamed to be British! A member of government hopes this will lead to a widespread cull- shameful! In a few years time we'll have to go to a zoo and show our grandchildren a living badger. I can condone culling if absolutely essential but to me, that's not been proven.

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