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Farmers keep faith in faltering badger cull as Government are urged to abandon killings

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 13, 2013

By Andy Greenwood, Twitter: @Hackintheshack

  • Hundreds of anti-cull protesters marched through Taunton to call for an end to the pilot scheme in West Somerset

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Westcountry farmers were last night keeping the faith in the Government's controversial badger cull despite major concerns that the trials were faltering.

Sources have told the Western Morning News that marksmen on the six-week cull on Exmoor had only managed to shoot a handful of badgers on some nights – significantly fewer than the average target of 50.

It has also been suggested that almost two weeks into the cull in West Somerset, which started on August 26 and is part of the Government strategy to halt the spread of bovine TB, the total was "well below 100".

Neither the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or the National Farmer's Union (NFU) have commented directly on the numbers. However, farmers remain positive that the culls will deliver against a disease which resulted in more than 20,000 cattle being slaughtered in the South West last year.

Bill Harper, a Devon farmer and chairman of the National Beef Association's TB group, said: "I think it is jumping the gun a little bit. At the end of the day we are waiting for two key reports – the first is from the post-mortems on whether shooting does kill badgers effectively. Secondly the observers on the ground will make their report on what activity they have seen and what percentage have been accounted for."

In West Somerset, the target is to kill between 2,081 and 2,162 badgers, which represents some 70% of the local population. Mr Harper said the trials would establish whether that population had been over-estimated.

"This should not be presented as some kind of disaster," he said. "There are lots and lots of issues that we need to find out about. We need all the information, we need to allow the people on the ground to gather it and then for it to be analysed."

Alex Stevens, NFU county adviser for Somerset, said: "Pilot trials to cull badgers will continue. We have a cycle of reinfection which we have to break. We must get rid of this disease.

"The Government strategy is talking about 25 years. We feel perhaps that this can be improved and it can be done more quickly."

Yesterday, it was claimed the culling company, already said to be "desperate" to recruit more marksmen, was rushing more traps to the area to up its success. It is feared that current progress will scupper the prospects of a rapid roll-out to other TB hotspots, including Devon and Cornwall. Opponents of the pilots, who have been carrying out nightly patrols in Somerset to try to disrupt shooting, seized on the figures to demand the scheme be halted.

Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "[Secretary of State] Owen Paterson should be courageous and admit he got it wrong.

"He should immediately review the pilots and stop them before any more badgers are slaughtered, someone gets hurt, and bovine TB is made worse by perturbation caused by frightened badgers scattering across the countryside. Any suggestion of rolling out these trials would be ludicrous."

Vet Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society, said: "It comes as no surprise that the badger cull is failing in its efforts to devastate badger populations in the pilot areas. This unjustified policy has been a shambles from the outset. It deeply saddens me that even one badger has to suffer and die for the sake of political expediency."

St Ives Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George has tabled a parliamentary question to Mr Paterson to publish raw data from the cull a week after it has concluded.

"Whatever happens, it shouldn't make the situation worse," Mr George said. "A partial cull in areas which already have TB in livestock runs a very high risk of making things worse."

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: "Labour has consistently warned the Government that, as well as being inhumane, shooting badgers was not likely to achieve a level of mortality high enough to have any impact on TB, but rather make it worse.

"The clear evidence from the scientifically conducted culling trials under the last Government was that to have any positive overall impact on TB you'd have to kill a far higher proportion of badgers over significantly bigger areas than these flawed pilots."

Mary Creagh MP, Labour's shadow environment secretary, told the WMN: "Ministers have failed to answer my questions on how many badgers have been shot. Scientists have warned that a botched cull could spread bovine TB in cull areas, making things worse, not better. Out-of-touch ministers should stop, listen to the scientists, and drop this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife."

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69 comments

  • Charlespk  |  September 16 2013, 3:47PM

    I'm of the opinion that was/is far more to do with its cheapness. . It's a natural product. (originally from willow bark)(acetylsalicylic acid, cheap to produce) so organizing this scare it enabled the industry to make £multi-millions from the many dozens of other NDAIDS on the market and available over the counter. http://tinyurl.com/qhbv5uw

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  • mmjames  |  September 16 2013, 3:25PM

    Charlespk Monday, September 16 2013, 3:17PM Yes we were always given aspirin and kept in bed when ill, unlike nowadays when TV ads tell us to take this and that and go out and spread our infections about. This suggests no aspirin for under 16's. http://tinyurl.com/nfurreg

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  • Charlespk  |  September 16 2013, 3:17PM

    @mm I was always taught that the NSAID, aspirin, was probably the finest antigen for any virus mm. As you will know antibiotics are no use with any viral infections. One just always has to be fully aware of its anti-platelet action that affects blood clotting, which is why low dose junior aspirin was always used if ever given to children.

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  • mmjames  |  September 16 2013, 2:49PM

    Charlespk Monday, September 16 2013, 11:47AM "We live in a world where teachers are not even allowed to administer basic things like an aspirin to the children ................ Not advised to give ANY child under 12 an aspirin these days, that liver poison is recommended instead. One of the trained monkeys mentioned she had a face abscess, I joined Faceache for a few days to warn her what it might be - she thought I was joking and said all the badgers she'd vaccinated were healthy! We 'see' her around sometimes so hope for her sake the antibiotics did clear up the infection, but time will tell with a slow burn disease like Tuberculosis. No wonder the Gov no longer skin test people as they did in the 60's.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 16 2013, 2:46PM

    @Free2opine Anything even the slightest bit intellectual really confuses some people. @fischadler You just hated it when we started teaching people the truth about tuberculosis and the BCG vaccine didn't you Alan. . I doubt you know any more about God than you do about medicine or veterinary practices. And how about this?? Was mad cow disease caused by M.bovis bacteria? cond. . "England's areas of highest bovine tuberculosis, the Southwest, where Britain's mad cow epidemic began. The neurotoxic potential for cow tuberculosis was shown in pre-1960 England, where one quarter of all tuberculous meningitis victims suffered from Mycobacterium bovis infection. And Harley's study showed pathology identical to "mad cow" from systemic M. bovis in cattle, causing a tuberculous spongiform encephalitis. In addition to M. bovis, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (fowl tuberculosis) causes Johne's disease, a problem known and neglected in cattle and sheep for almost a century, and rapidly emerging as the disease of the new millennium. Not only has M. paratuberculosis been found in human Crohn's disease, but both Crohn's and Johne's both cross-react with the antigens of cattle paratuberculosis. Furthermore, central neurologic manifestations of Crohn's disease are not unknown. There is no known disease which better fits into what is occurring in Mad Cow and the spongiform enchephalopathies than bovine tuberculosis and its blood-brain barrier penetrating, virus-like, cell-wall-deficient forms. It is for these reasons that future research needs to be aimed in this direction." . . Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd. http://tinyurl.com/mzev3am (open in a new window)

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  • Free2opine  |  September 16 2013, 1:47PM

    Oh well done fishy.....I can always rely on you to give me a good laugh, priceless, ....bwa,ha,ha,

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  • fischadler  |  September 16 2013, 1:27PM

    Frantic postings by the pro cull stooges I see. They know they have lost the hearts and minds and are losing the war.

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  • Free2opine  |  September 16 2013, 12:07PM

    or even"Department"

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  • Free2opine  |  September 16 2013, 12:05PM

    Yep, I just hope we don't run short of doctors and dentists. I don't fancy being injected with something potentially harmful, by a bus-driver or school teacher or whoever else they decide to let loose on the unsuspecting!! But if the government says they've discussed it with the Health Deptartment, then seemingly, it will be nothing to worry about Tough if you already have an underlying health issue!????? This is the same scenario......utter madness.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 16 2013, 11:55AM

    Political expedience at its worst. . Where are the Health and Safety Executive now?!!

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