UK: Badger killing delayed

Controversial plans to cull thousands of badgers to tackle tuberculosis in cattle are to be delayed until next summer, it was announced today.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told MPs that culling was originally delayed by the Olympics and legal proceedings, and now by bad weather and the news that there were more badgers in the cull areas than previously estimated.

As a result, farmers could not be confident they could cull enough badgers this year and two pilot culls that were due to start imminently will now take place next summer.

Mr Paterson insisted the Government remained absolutely committed to the policy of culling, which he said he was “utterly convinced” was the right thing to do.

The RSPCA, which has campaigned against the cull, welcomed the delay but said it must be more than a temporary reprieve.

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The animal welfare charity’s chief executive Gavin Grant said: “This is good news for badgers, cows, dairy farmers and animal-lovers alike.

“Hopefully, it marks the beginning of the end for these unscientific, foolish and cruel plans to cull badgers. We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans.

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“Science, the public and MPs from all parties had said very clearly that a cull is no answer to bovine TB.

“The RSPCA stands ready to play a full part working with farmers, land-owners, Government and conservationists to move forward rapidly and constructively to tackle this dire disease in cattle and wildlife.”

Peter Jones, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “As we get later in the season, we must recognise that it becomes less likely for a cull to be delivered effectively and so it could make sense to delay until next year.

“It is important to note that the speculation is that the cull is being delayed due to questions surrounding the logistics of delivery. The science has not changed.

“Scientists agree that culling badgers does reduce the levels of infection in cattle herds, and we know that no country has dealt with bovine TB without tackling the disease in wildlife.”

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall said he understood that today’s news would come as devastating blow to farmers who are desperate for a solution to the cycle of reinfection of TB in their beef and cattle herds.

“The NFU and its members take their responsibilities on this issue extremely seriously and I know there will be many who are devastated by today’s news”, he said. “We have all worked tirelessly to prepare for the delivery of this government policy to see us finally get on top of this terrible disease.

“But there have been a series of obstacles, not least the appalling weather, delays because of the Olympics and Paralympics, and the legal challenges from those against the policy. And let’s be clear, the numbers from the badger population survey last week, which demonstrated just how large the badger numbers are, have left us with a huge challenge to ensure we achieve the targets needed for disease control.

“We have always said that this is has to be a science-led policy to reduce disease and we have to be confident of achieving the numbers needed for disease reduction. As we rapidly approach winter the odds of achieving that number decrease. This is why, reluctantly, we have taken the decision, with the companies involved, to delay until late spring next year.

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