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Badger Trust attacks Defra over pilot cull

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 12, 2012

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Wildlife campaigners say the Government's green-light for pilot badger culls in the Westcountry signals failure to combat tuberculosis spreading to cattle.

Natural England has licensed six-week pilot culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to determine if shooting badgers is safe and humane and reduces the incidence of TB in livestock.

Earlier this week at the Conservative party conference the newly-appointed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said vaccinating badgers was unworkable in the short-term despite £15.5 million being spent on research.

However, the Badger Trust says environment ministers and their departmental aides are "quick to cherry-pick bits of science that appear to support their case" and the public is being deliberately misled.

Jack Reedy, spokesman for the charity, said: "The Coalition remains silent and evasive on the real issue: cattle management, and their own continuing abject failure to impose, through Defra, the kind of tough, effective, long-term remedial measures spelt out by independent scientists, following ten years of peer-reviewed research.

"If – and it's a big if – the proposed night-time rifle-fire slaughter of tens of thousands of an iconic and protected animal goes ahead, the Government forecasts only a 12 to 16% drop over nine years in bovine TB in cattle.

"Self-evidently that means bovine TB won't be solved.

"Self evidently that can only mean that cattle are the main vectors and that the bulk of the problem – that untouched 84% – is being ignored or unreasonably delayed. Ministers protest loud and long that something must be done to control this highly infectious respiratory disease. But the blame for inaction lies squarely with them.

"They appeal for calm; they protest that culling is unavoidable. But when it comes to tackling the root causes of the disease they fail the farming community, the public – who are forced to pay farmers a huge annual compensation bill – and of, course, wildlife."

NFU South West spokesman Ian Johnson said tens of thousands of cattle were slaughtered every year because of the disease.

He said: "The Badger Trust appears not to want to accept we have a disease that is carried by more than one species and if we don't deal with it as a whole the countryside will never be rid of it. Cattle are routinely subjected to draconian movement control and testing and all to no avail.

"Badgers excrete bacilli in their urine and sputum across fields and are not subjected to testing." Mr Johnson said vaccination was not a viable option yet and badgers were not an endangered species.

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  • Clued-Up  |  October 12 2012, 10:07AM

    The government and NFU's support for the badger cull SHOULD shame them and DOES horrify the 96% public who don't want the badgers slaughtered. The government and NFU know the badger cull will do very little (if anything) to reduce cattle bTB; killing badgers may even spread bTB into areas free of the disease. They're refusing to adopt the only plan proved to work - a total ban on the movement of cattle from bTB infected areas into clean areas (it nearly eradicated bTB in the 1960s). They're refusing to replace the cull with badger vaccination projects - even though these projects have all the benefits claimed for culling badgers and none of the risks. They say badger vaccination is more costly, failing to take into account the very high policing costs of the cull programme and the likelihood of human injury or death when pro-cullers clash with badger protectors. They also fail to take into account the contributions the animal / wildlife charities and public are prepared to make to offset the costs of badger vaccination. Lastly, the new cattle bTB could be introduced very quickly if there was a political will to do so. That vaccine would stop cattle bTB in its tracks. There's no need to kill a single badger.

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