The coalition government said delaying the badger cull to tackle bovine tuberculosis until this year offers the best chance of success, in an audit of assessment of policy commitments.
The Programme for Government Update document, is a 119-page audit of the government’s performance of the two-and-a-half years since the government came to power. The document was released to coincide with the mid-term review, published on Monday (7 January).
It points out that last year the planned cull to help bovine tuberculosis had been “postponed” in the two pilot areas – Gloucestershire and Somerset – at the request of the NFU.
“This is to allow farmers to continue their preparations and have the best possible chance of carrying out the cull effectively,” it said.
However, the audit does not provide any assessment of the government’s commitments to farming which were set out in the original 2010 coalition agreement, The Coalition: Our Programme for Government – and whether they have been met or missed.
In the original document, the government set out a series of commitments to farming under section 11, entitled Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
This included reducing the regulatory burden on farmers by moving to a risk-based system of regulation, and developing a system of extra support for hill farmers, introducing a badger cull as part of measures to tackle bovine TB and promoting high standards of farm animal welfare.
This week farmers welcomed the publication of the audit, but urged the government to show leadership to ensure that controversial policies, such as the badger cull, come to fruition.
“We need strong leadership to ensure that the badger cull policy gets through and is up and running.”
Gloucestershire beef farmer David Barton has lost 48 cattle to bovine TB since last February at Manor Farm in Middle Duntisbourne near Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
“We need strong leadership to ensure that the badger cull policy gets through and is up and running,” said Mr Barton, commenting on the government’s performance.
“If I am being honest, I have not seen much red tape cut – certainly nothing has filtered through yet.
“I’m not really sure that the government needs to be worried about animal welfare. They should leave that to farmers, the farming industry and food producers.
“We are all working hard to ensure that the consumer and the UK has the best and highest standards of animal welfare anywhere in the world.”
However, commenting on the audit, Labour’s shadow DEFRA secretary Mary Creagh accused the government of being “out of touch” with farmers.
“There is a lack of political leadership in DEFRA to provide the support that farmers and the food sector need,” she said.
“The dairy crisis showed how out of touch DEFRA was with the needs of farmers. This crisis could be repeated in the pig industry unless ministers work with the EU to ensure compliance on the sow stall ban.”
Read more on bovine TB and the badger cull