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Owen Paterson expresses 'confidence' in badger cull

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 22, 2013

By Graeme Demianyk, WMN London Editor, Twitter: @graemedemianyk

OwenPaterson

Owen Paterson

Comments (25)

There is "great confidence" that Somerset's controversial badger cull will eradicate bovine tuberculosis from the area, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said.

The Government has faced criticism for marksmen failing to shoot the required 70% of the badgers in the "pilot" cull area, even following a three-week extension.

But ministers have argued the killing was safe and humane, and that the 65% rate achieved is a good basis for three more years of culling.

Now Mr Paterson has indicated farmers in the area could be "rid" of bovine tuberculosis (TB), which is causing misery for agriculture across the region.

The Secretary of State told MPs yesterday: "I was in Somerset last week talking to those conducting the cull, and they were doing so with great professionalism, skill and restraint, in the face of some opposition, and they were delighted with the results, were convinced there had been a significant reduction in the number of diseased badgers and were looking with great confidence to that part of Somerset being rid of the disease."

Mr Paterson also reminded MPs that badgers can move around – weeks after suggesting the animals had "moved the goalposts" and made a cull more difficult to implement.

The minister made the remark when challenged by Labour's Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) as to why badgers were being killed on farms which did not have cattle.

Mr Paterson said: "You must understand badgers move around. When they are super excretors and they move on to cattle farms, sadly they are very effective transmitters of this disease. That is why we are addressing this disease not just in cattle but also in the wildlife."

Ms McCarthy had asked: "Recent figures from Natural England show only 60% of the farms in the West Somerset cull zone contained cattle and only 43% of the farms in West Gloucestershire.

"Why is the Government culling badgers on farms without cattle?"

The disease, said to be spread by badgers and cattle, led to the slaughter of 28,000 animals last year – more than 20,000 in the South West – at a cost of £100 million to the taxpayer.

The two "pilot" culls – in Somerset and Gloucestershire – will determine the prospects of expanding to up to 40 culls from next year.

A roll-out could mean culling in neighbouring Devon and even into Cornwall – both considered bovine TB hotspots.

Mr Paterson also hit out at Labour for opposing the cull after he was accused of being a "complete stranger to evidence-based policy, but a master of moving the goalposts".

"I wish we could go back to the bipartisan approach of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when we got this disease beaten," he said, adding: "We got it down to 0.01%."

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25 comments

  • barney2  |  November 23 2013, 2:03PM

    I see the arrow changer has been at work again. Despicable moron.

    Rate   8
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  • barney2  |  November 23 2013, 2:01PM

    I see the arrow changer has been at work again. Despicable moron.

    Rate   7
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  • twigcat  |  November 23 2013, 12:21AM

    Ooooh, lots of comments here! Sorry to add another one but may I just be allowed, in a very understated way, to express my serious ''lack of confidence'' in Owen Paterson. Good to get it off your chest - stops me chewing on the carpet through pure incredulity and frustration.

    Rate   15
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  • dandypeople  |  November 22 2013, 11:37PM

    mmjames I think you will find that Northern Ireland has not yet started its TVR (Test vaccinate/remove) program yet. Yes they do intend to cull any badgers that test positive for btb. It should be noted though that btb rates in NI are falling at a quicker rate than RoI even though RoI has been culling badgers for years, and still haven't eradicated btb.

    Rate   11
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  • mmjames  |  November 22 2013, 9:58PM

    auntyapril Friday, November 22 2013, 7:22PM "http://tinyurl.com/mjl7yux" ............... Go and look up TVR and then tell us that no badgers are being culled.

    Rate   -3
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  • auntyapril  |  November 22 2013, 7:22PM
    Rate   6
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  • auntyapril  |  November 22 2013, 7:11PM

    The NFU is not acknowledging the elephant in the room. It is not doing enough to prevent bTB from being transmitted by cattle from high risk areas to other areas of the country. Farms in County Durham have recently been placed under restriction because West Country cattle sold to a farmer were discovered to be infected after slaughter. Not enough is being done to ensure well informed, risk based trading. This is only a voluntary arrangement at the moment and the UK's market IT systems are far inferior to ones used in Spain and Ireland and other EU countries. Not enough is being done by DEFRA or the NFU to fast track the use of the DIVA test and cattle vaccine. Research indicates that bTB falls away in badger populations when under control in cattle: Mycobacterium bovis surveillance in European badgers (Meles meles) killed by vehicles in Northern Ireland: an epidemiological evaluation, Abernethy et al. http://tinyurl.com/qh4qky6" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/qh4qky6 http://tinyurl.com/qh4qky6" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/qh4qky6 And transmission between cattle is where the main problem lies: http://tinyurl.com/qgzoarv Vaccination (available from £25 per badger The Big_interview__Kate_Edmonds__Sussex_Badger_Vaccination_Project/) compares favourably with the cost of £2000 per badger culled. The Defra-commissioned FERA Report states: "Our modelling has shown that while the differences between the outcomes of strategies using culling and/or vaccinating badgers are quite modest (~15-40 CHBs prevented over 10 years), their risk profile is markedly different. Culling results in the known hazard of perturbation, leading to increased CHBs [Cattle Herd Breakdowns] in the periphery of the culling area. Culling also risks being ineffective or making the disease situation worse, if it is conducted partially (because of low compliance) or ineffectually (because of disruption or poor co-ordination) or it is stopped early (because of licensing issues). Vaccination carries no comparable risks or hazards." http://tinyurl.com/ckczpak But Owen Paterson and the NFU would rather stake its professional and political reputation on trying to sell us that dodgy used car of badger culling. BBC: Over £300,000 for costs related to licensing the cull £750,000 for sett monitoring £17,000 for independent panel to monitor the cull £700,000 estimated costs for humaneness monitoring £750,000 for carrying out post mortems on badgers. On top of the cost of continued bTB. The only thing currently making a difference is the tightening up of testing regimes, but this has not entirely been at the initiative of DEFRA or the NFU, but because the EU has insisted on strengthening controls. At present, these restrictions are causing the rate of bTB infections to decrease. "In the past two years, improved cattle testing, biosecurity and movement controls in England have led to a 15% reduction in the rates of bTB infection. In Wales, during the same period, the number of cattle slaughtered because of bTB has fallen by 36%, and by 45% in Dyfed". (Julia Kaminski, Guardian) http://tinyurl.com/nuloqqe

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  • barney2  |  November 22 2013, 6:51PM

    D-Head Take no notice of the arrows, it is a very basic website and easy to vote multiple times when you know how and are the sort of despicable person that would do it. I will leave you to decide whether or not it is happening and who would be doing it.

    Rate   5
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  • dee_2  |  November 22 2013, 6:43PM

    The Tories and their friends are a disgrace. The sooner they go the better. They have betrayed everyone who believed them when they told us that they would be "the greenest government ever". Liars!

    Rate   15
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  • D-Head  |  November 22 2013, 4:32PM

    Well said fox_in_winter and others. There are the usual ignorant 'red arrows' under these postings but we all know where they come from. I voted Tory at the last general election but never never again. Paterson is typical of them all and the Limpdims who keep them in office - they have an agenda which is to put money in their friends' pockets before they are kicked out. One way or another they are destroying our countryside and wildlife. There's a very good letter from UKIP councillor Derek Elliott on the subject of the cull in this week's Cornishman. He, as does every other thinking person, repeats that there is no science behind this cull. It seems to me that UKIP is now the only party talking sense on the badger cull and numerous other issues vital to the future of this nation.

    Rate   6
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