Login Register

Heath 'promise' on controversial cull of badgers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2012

Farming Minister David Heath says the pilot cull on badgers is necessary and will go ahead

Farming Minister David Heath says the pilot cull on badgers is necessary and will go ahead

Comments (0)

Controversial pilot culls of badgers in two South West locations will go ahead next year, according to Farming Minister David Heath.

The Frome and Somerton Lib Dem MP restated the Government's commitment to controlling the reservoir of bovine TB in the badger population by introducing the pilot culls in early summer.

He told the annual open meeting of the Somerset county branch of the National Farmers' Union: "I promise you it is our very clear intention to do these trials next summer."

With the flood of disease challenges he was facing in his new Ministerial job, he sometimes felt like "all four horsemen of the apocalypse rolled into one", he said. He explained he had not been expecting to be given his ministerial job but was "absolutely delighted" that he had been.

Mr Heath stressed that vaccination for either badgers or cattle was not a viable option for controlling bovine TB, in fact it was illegal in the case of the latter, and that if there was an alternative to culling badgers to curtail the spread of the disease the Government would use it, but there was nothing currently available.

"Frankly this should have been sorted out years ago," he said.

The pilot culls in West Somerset and around Tewkesbury were called off at short notice this autumn because of a lack of time before the start of the badger breeding season and because of the number of badgers involved, far greater than had at first been estimated. Seventy per cent of all badgers in the cull areas were to have been shot by licensed marksmen paid for by farmer groups – a highly controversial programme opposed by animal-welfare organisations and condemned in a backbencher debate in the House of Commons, when the Government's plans were defeated.

Bovine TB has been causing widespread havoc in cattle herds in the Westcountry and last year was responsible for the deaths of 26,000 cattle nationally, costing tens of millions of pounds in compensation and anguish to farmers who have seen their herds decimated.

Speaking more generally about the challenges to agriculture, Mr Heath admitted he "did not have all the answers" and had to listen to those who were doing the farming.

He said that although there were a lot of threats and difficulties facing farmers, overall he was optimistic for their future.

But he said the country needed a food strategy, and that if people could not be fed, the Government was failing.

"I haven't got a magic wand," he said. "All I can do is my best as your Minister."

Read more from Western Morning News

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters
  • Clued-Up  |  December 12 2012, 10:21PM

    @AtrixMan DEFRA's statisticians and bTB research personnel know far too much about running and evaluating scientific experiments to make the very basic methodological mistakes you've accused them of making. It's they who report the tighter cattle controls are responsible for the substantial drop in the incidence of cattle bTB.

    Rate 0
    Report
  • AtrixMan  |  December 12 2012, 9:38PM

    Clued-Up, Surprise, Surprise, If you do lot's more TB test on uninfected cattle the number of reactor you find go's down in relation to the number of cattle tested. WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!!

    Rate 0
    Report
  • Clued-Up  |  December 12 2012, 9:55AM

    @AtrixMan "your theory ... It's not my theory, it's basic mathematics / statistics. It's also the theory that DEFRA's been arguing. "[the] theory works on the premise that the lower level of testing was missing large numbers of infected cattle" ... That's what DEFRA, the EU and bTB scientists have been arguing for a long time.

    Rate 0
    Report
  • AtrixMan  |  December 11 2012, 11:16PM

    Clued-Up your theory works on the premiss that the lower level of testing was missing large numbers of infected cattle and that as increased testing doesn't show a similar increase in reactors then things must be improving. 'RUBBISH' bovine TB is continuing to rise and the worst areas of the country are continuing to expand as they have done since the mid 1980s. Its time to get real and stop trying to manipulate the data to give an answer that fits your agenda.

    Rate 0
    Report
  • Clued-Up  |  December 11 2012, 10:01PM

    @AtrixMan You haven't understood DEFRA's figures. Think back to a game you may have played as a child on a long car journey - counting the number of red cars you saw. If you went on a one journey on Monday that was 10 times the distance of the journey you went on Tuesday, then you'd expect to see around 10 times the number of red cars on Monday that you saw on Tuesday, wouldn't you? DEFRA are testing SUBSTANTIALLY more cattle than they used to and are only finding SLIGHT increases in the absolute numbers of bTB reactors. In this situation, you'd expect the number of bTB reactors to go up in the same proportion as the increased numbers of cattle tested. It's not happening, there are nowhere near the increased number of reactors that you'd expect to find. The most obvious explanation for this very welcome shortfall in the (predictable) number of catttle bTB reactors is the new DEFRA controls on cattle movement. That's the only major change in conditions that could account for the shortfall as nothing else of any significance seems to have happened.

    Rate   -1
    Report
  • AtrixMan  |  December 11 2012, 8:17PM

    Re:Clued-Up, Porkies. Heath knows DEFRA's tighter controls on cattle movement have already delivered TWICE the reduction in the incidence of cattle bTB than even pro-cullers thought was possible by slaughtering badgers ... and those cattle controls have achieved this reduction in around a tenth of the time. The level of TB has continued to rise and is continuing to rise despite all of the tighter cattle movement controls. SO WHO'S TELLING PORKIES NOW!!

    Rate   1
    Report
  • Clued-Up  |  December 11 2012, 2:49PM

    "Mr Heath stressed ... that if there was an alternative to culling badgers to curtail the spread of the disease the Government would use it". Porkies. Heath knows DEFRA's tighter controls on cattle movement have already delivered TWICE the reduction in the incidence of cattle bTB than even pro-cullers thought was possible by slaughtering badgers ... and those cattle controls have achieved this reduction in around a tenth of the time. Even if Heath himself doesn't understand basic statistics, he only need ask any statistics-trained civil servant to explain the simple statistical analysis that proves the truth of the above statement.

    Rate   -2
    Report
  • fischadler  |  December 10 2012, 9:06PM

    We will protect the badgers then , now and forever against any attempt at culling by any means at our disposal.

    Rate   2
    Report
  • vulcan  |  December 10 2012, 2:58PM

    Yet another minister with no experience in his job, making huge decisions on a subject he knows nothing about

    Rate   5
    Report
  • dodgethebulle  |  December 10 2012, 2:06PM

    WHAT'S IN A NAME? NOT IN THIS FARMERS NAME was inspired by my falling out with the system when I realised that we were about to embark on a wildlife slaughter in order to produce our food. I have spent much of my life working the land in one way or another. From small family farms to large scale agri-business; from tens of animals to thousands. I am often asked which system offers the highest welfare for the animals concerned. My opinion is that much depends on the ability and the compassion of the stockperson doing the job; secondly it depends on the functionality of the system being deployed and thirdly much is dependent on the remuneration that the producer receives for the end product; be that milk, meat or crops. In my opinion there is an imbalance within the system at this present time. The remuneration is often not sufficient; this can mean a lack of investment into our farms and this can lead to demoralisation of the very ones who are at sharp end of animal husbandry. The net result of all this is STRESS. • Stress on systems • Stress on the animals • Stress on the farming communities • And stress on the environment. The cause of this pressure needs alleviating and we need to move toward sustainable, ethical and ecological agriculture. http://tinyurl.com/c37ts77

    Rate   7
    Report

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES