Poll: Should badger culls be continued in the UK?

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A Conservative-led government will continue the cull of regardless of complaints from protesters, the environment secretary has pledged.

Speaking at the annual National Farmers Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham, Liz Truss set up a pre-election badger battle with Labour, which has promised to end what it calls the “ineffective and inhumane” programme intended to halt the spread of TB in cattle.

Scientists have condemned pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset last autumn, which an independent panel ruled was neither humane or effective in controlling the disease which affects dairy and beef herds.

An independent panel of scientists concluded that the pilot culls had been neither humane or effective in controlling bovine TB. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Both pilots missed targets for the minimum number of badgers shot, leading experts to warn that animals disrupted in those areas could move on, spreading the disease further. The culls, which cost the government £6.3m in the first two years and millions more in policing costs to deal with animal rights protesters, are also seen as an expensive option.

Truss said: “We will not let up, whatever complaints we get from protesters groups. We are in it for the long haul and we will not walk away.” She said culls in areas “where the disease is rife” were an important part of a 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB, which also includes controls on cattle movement and vaccination.

Under the plan, Truss said the culls would be rolled out beyond pilot areas if the Conservatives win the election in May. She did not give a time frame, but the NFU’s president, Meurig Raymond, said he could envisage the industry being ready to move into action in September or October this year.

Truss said it was “shameful” that under the previous Labour government bovine TB had increased nine-fold to reach the highest levels in Europe.

“It is incredible that [Labour] now want to make the same mistake again,” she said. Truss insisted that the Conservatives’ backing for the culls was not political, but in response to advice from the chief veterinary officer and evidence of success in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, said the culls had been described as an “epic failure” by the former chief scientific adviser to Natural England. She said Labour had spent £50m over 10 years in field-testing the case for and had concluded it made “no meaningful contribution”.Advertisement

“Labour has consistently said that to get bovine TB under control we need to bring in stricter cattle measures and prioritise badger and cattle vaccinations, but these culls are not the answer,” Eagle said. “It’s time the Tory-led government stopped ignoring the overwhelming evidence and got together with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to get the problem of bovine TB under control.”

Truss’s pledge was well received by farmers at the meeting in Birmingham, where Raymond said 28,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England last year because of the disease.

He said he was “bitterly disappointed” by Labour’s commitment to ditch the culls and called on all the political parties to stick with them. “Don’t be tempted to tear up this strategy,” he said.

He insisted that the pilot schemes had been a success, reducing the incidence of TB on farms in Somerset where badgers have been targeted from 34% two years ago to 11%. Vets in Gloucestershire were also reporting a reduction in TB, he said.

We invite you to share your opinion whether badger culls should be continued in the UK. Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should badger culls be continued in the UK?

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This article was first published by The Guardian on 24 Feb 2015

 

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Anna Scrivenger
Anna Scrivenger

Science has proven that killing wildlife is irrelevant to bTB.

Janet Ward
Janet Ward

Wales has no cull and is injecting in some area also all road kill are collected and tested and guess what TB is reducing.

John Wantling

TB is not a disease of overcrowding, no relation to cattle control or bio-security. These ideas are a dead end. When we talk about TB, we are talking about a skin reaction test, an antibody test. These tests are being translated into infectious language but we dont have infection until we can ascertain the mode of transmission and no one can find that because there isn't one to find. It is wrong to translate an antibody test into infectious language but this is what we do. An immune response is not a terrible infectious disease that is rampaging throughout the… Read more »

John Wantling

Keith, the cull is costing £100m on a yearly basis, and this is the real reason for the cull, it generates funding from the public purse. If the government can justify that, then they can distribute that money to the industry whilst at the same time they can gather votes. Take that money out of the equation and the cull will end overnight. John Wantling, Rochdale

John Wantling

NO no no, not vaccination, this is not solving the issue at all, a vaccine is foreign matter, foreign proteins, toxins, a mish mash of chemicals that we think will protect us from disease, but all a vaccine can possibly do is to cause an inflammatory response and if this matter is highly toxic, then this can cause vaccine damage or even death. In fact, a vaccine will render the vaccinated, human or animal, more likely to test 'positive' to a TB test because it is introducing more foreign proteins into the body. We need to look at the infectious… Read more »

John Wantling

TB is not even an 'infectious' disease. We are talking about a test such as an antibody test that detects certain proteins associated with TB. These tests are not 'infectious' disease tests. So where did this idea of infection come from. The answer is that this is industry standard, it is default mode, we think infectious without a thought, it is the fashion to translate a test result on infectious thinking. When we think like this, we are not looking for the cause of this antibody response which is most likely an environmental stress. I would guess that this stress… Read more »

Debra Duddle
Debra Duddle

The scientific evidence has been ignored by the government, there has never been a justification for the culls and to roll them out is even more ludicrous. These barbaric inhumane acts have to be stopped. They have even stopped independant monitoring and plan to kill cubs to increase the kill rate. Horrific.

Alan Myers
Alan Myers

Vaccinate. Not exterminate.

Malcolm Mee

Vaccinate not exterminate.

Keith Boult

No leave them alone, it doesnt work.

Christine Link

NO!!!!

George Holloway

There is no justification for these culls. There is no way they can ever reliably say whether culling is having an effect, because they a) scrapped independent monitoring, so the discrepancies in the overall assessment and analysis make it virtually impossible to compare the two years, b) had no control areas- unlike the RBCT- which means the effects of culling cannot be separated from other factors, c) bovine TB is declining throughout the UK, and even the chief vet admitted that it could not be attributed to the culls, and d) when questioned, the vet who championed the culls in… Read more »

Keith Chadwick
Keith Chadwick

I would guess its all down to some private company making a big fat amount of money .as there is no logical reason.

Trevor Hiscox

So the most senior vet supports the cull of badgers, if so why was a panel of scientists (set up to oversee the cull) ignored. No logical explanation has been put forward to continue.