Badger cull begins in Britain in bid to curb bovine TB
Ireland’s approach held up as example on issue as protesters mount candlelit vigils
Protesters in Minehead in Britain during a candlelit vigil event against the badger cull organised by Somerset Badger Patrol. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
The first pilot badger control operations in Britain have begun in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said today.
How the problem had been dealt with in Ireland was held up by several parties as an example of why the cull was necessary in Britain.
In a letter to its members, NFU president Peter Kendall said the cull was “an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry”.
He insisted the cull was absolutely necessary.
“I hope that when time shows that these culls have reduced [bovine tuberculosis - or TB] in cattle - just as has happened in Ireland - that even more people will understand that while sad, these culls are absolutely necessary.”
Environment secretary Owen Paterson said it was necessary to use “every tool in the box” to tackle the spread of bovine TB.
“Bovine TB is an infectious disease that is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries,” he said.
“We know that, despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.”
Wildlife charity Care for the Wild questioned the government’s reliance on evidence from Ireland that culling badgers could reduce TB in livestock.
Philip Mansbridge, Care for the Wild chief executive, said: “The government claim that a cull has worked in Ireland, where half the country’s badgers have been killed for a small reduction in TB - but the same reduction was achieved across the Border in Northern Ireland without a single badger being killed.
“They are just cherry-picking information to justify the unjustifiable.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-badger cull protesters held candlelit processions in the countryside as they prepared to step up their tactics to fight the badger cull.
Campaigners in Minehead, Somerset, turned out in large numbers to protest against what they have called an “inhumane” measure.
In his letter to NFU members, Mr Kendall wrote: “We cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of TB while knowing the disease exists in wildlife uncontrolled.
“It is why the NFU will be working with the pilot companies to ensure the successful delivery of these pilot culls over the coming weeks.”
Around 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks, where two pilot schemes are taking place in an attempt to stop the spread of TB.