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UK: Farmers’ leaders ‘bitterly disappointed’ at decision not to roll out badger culls to help reduce TB

PUBLISHED: 13:38 03 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:38 03 April 2014

A badger cull report was released today

A badger cull report was released today

Archant

Farmers will be bitterly disappointed in the decision not to roll out badger culls to help reduce TB in other areas where the disease remains persistent and high, farmers’ leaders said today.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) statement comes after the Government TB Free Strategy for England was published today, together with the Independent Expert Panel report.

Pilot badger culls will continue this year as part of efforts to tackle tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, but the controversial scheme will not be rolled out to other areas, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has announced.

An independent report on the culls found they could be conducted safely and the majority of badgers were killed humanely but the pilots did not kill as many badgers as hoped, Mr Paterson told the House of Commons.

The second year of the two pilots, in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, will go ahead with changes made in light of the report to improve the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of culling.

The changes will be monitored to assess their impact before decisions are made on whether to extend the programme to other areas next year.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Firstly, I want to thank those that helped manage and deliver these important badger cull pilots. They were the first time controlled shooting of badgers was used as a culling method and they were to test the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of this method. As pilots, there was always going to be the potential to make improvements as a result of knowledge gained. After all that is what pilots are for. They have helped to gain a greater understanding of how we can tackle the wildlife element of this terrible disease cycle.

“Importantly, the Independent Expert Panel has found this method of culling badgers by controlled shooting can be safe with best practice followed, even with the presence of protestors. And we do have to remember that some of these protestors carried out a sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment and were, in some cases, aggressive and completely irresponsible.

“While we don’t agree with all of the assumptions made in the IEP report, and we are concerned it paints a picture that is not recognised by those on the ground, we will need to examine the report in more detail. The panel does make some useful recommendations to improve the delivery of culling which will be implemented in Gloucestershire and West Somerset in subsequent years.

“TB remains a terrible disease for cattle and cattle farmers where it is persistent and high. Statistics released by Defra show there were 4,815 new herds infected with TB in 2013 in Great Britain, with 32,620 cattle slaughtered in an attempt to control the disease. As today’s strategy sets out, it is hugely important that any cattle controls go hand in hand with measures to tackle the disease in badgers. And culling must play a part in that where TB is rife.

“Members are our priority. For our beef and dairy farmers, TB remains a terrible disease which is having a huge impact on their cattle and their farm business.”

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