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Farmers key to a more successful badger cull

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 30, 2013

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Farmer “ownership” is key to TB control, according to the man who is heading the drive to eliminate the disease in the South West.

Bill Harper, chairman of the National Beef Association’s TB committee, implored farmers to take responsibility for TB control implementation.

As the pilot badger culls were extended having failed to produce sufficient numbers after six weeks, he insisted that farmer control had made a critical difference between the two trial badger cull areas, in West Somerset and around the Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire.

Mr Harper said that farmers in Somerset had shouldered the responsibility for appointing and co-ordinating the marksmen employed. In contrast, the Gloucestershire area had not seen such a hands-on approach from those directly affected by bovine TB.

Mr Harper believed this made a significant difference in results achieved between the two areas.

Speaking at an NBA meeting in West Cornwall, Mr Harper went on to say that the farmers of West Penwith might face a set of difficult decisions around their localised-control programme.

He was sceptical about the short-term prospects for a badger-gassing programme. “Foam gas, as used to slaughter diseased chickens, offers the most practical option,” he said. “Gassing is preferable to trapping and shooting, but to date there is no gas licensed for use with badgers. That is five years away.”

To build on the trial cull results,

Mr Harper encouraged farmers to support a professional roll-out programme. But that would require an experienced and professional full-time manager. Funding such a move could cost as little as £2.50 per animal per year.

The farmers of North Cornwall were gearing-up to make their contribution to such a scheme, said Mr Harper – who stressed he was looking for a similar commitment from West Penwith.

Turning to vaccination, Mr Harper was clear that the best place to deploy stocks was in an area between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Humber, a distance of only 37 miles. Creating a fire wall across this short distance could maintain the free status of the North, while farmers tackle the issue from the south upwards.

West Penwith was the natural starting point for such a project, and farmers would have the support of Defra Secretary Owen Patterson.

Jointly working with the Government and Natural England, farmers could get on top of the scourge of bovine TB, Mr Harper insisted.

Meanwhile the highly controversial pilot badger culls continue, amid rumours, claims and counter claims about them.

But one aspect seems certain . . . the “benefits” of carrying out the culls by shooting free-running badgers would appear to be a lot less attractive an option now than they were before the pilots began.

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  • stormkettle  |  October 30 2013, 12:28AM

    The mass killing of mosly healthy ,Tb-free badgers in county-sized areas is utterly deplorable. It is stupidity to continue with badger culls with so much opposition by people saying it is the WRONG thing to do. There is massive opposition because it is the wrong thing to do.

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  • groundnut  |  October 29 2013, 9:52PM

    Mr Harper not one word in your dialogue about Farmer responsibility for TB spread in cattle and to badgers or as Owen Paterson might say to Domestic Cats. i think you are getting paid too much CAP. and not prepared to arrive at any science based eradication programme for the longer term. You all seem to be born with kill everything instinct. Healthy or otherwise. How many of the badgers you are all involved in slaughtering have tb ? you dont actually know. How much of your poor bio security, slurry dumping, animal welfare , ear tag changing, livestock market conditions and movement of cattle is responsible for TB. You are not prepared to accept that any of it is . What actually happened with Foot& mouth? how was it caused. and following that did you just move cattle everywhere to re stock. I think so. and what about cattle vaccination ? no you cant for export reasons. only about 1.8% of cattle are exported. And at the moment Tb tested cattle \are slaughtered and put in the Food chain. and what about BSE and horsemeat sold as Beef. or bird flu virus. or mastitis or lameness . How many cattle affected More than TB infected cattle perhaps. And you plan more industrialised animal units. I think you industry needs a clean up. You are jointly responsible together with such Ministers as Owen Paterson for the present situation. Paterson is the architect of mis information who is preventing quantified progress towards a humane and much less controversial solution to TB in both wildlife and cattle. The public your customers are not readily going to accept this flawed very costly solution as any way forward. the GUN toting kill everything attitude is flawed and proving expensive. Neither are the public going to accept any gas solution for the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife. This Tb problem needs some better thinking and delivery. And the ball is equally in the farmers court as it is with responsible direction from qualified experts . But left to OP and the NFU on behalf of the shooting estates it will not happen. And gun law is not it. I as a member of the Public ( not a veggie) but I respect those that want to see genuine progress. make that choice, want humane progress and a change of direction. Recently Justin Rose of Sainsbury attended an NFU sponsored lunch -- and praised the farmers and supported the cull. Big mistake his phone next day was red hot. And he said what we need is cattle welfare and badger welfare amongst those who supply Sainsbury Meat. That style would probably be acceptable to both sides. Finally if you have been following any part of the National Trust AGM voting on culling on NT land . You may have seen some controversy in the voting procedure which enable the Chairman of the NT to allocate 2000 proxy votes to yes or No. The outcome is important but the Chairman and his style and views more significant . I will post an article below on The Chairman. I believe his style and actions will lose the NT many members. There are in my opinion similarities in this TB debate and Government representation. Don't join them progress with a humane science based solution. It is already time for change. http://tinyurl.com/njh4nfv

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