The expected decision not to undertake a national badger cull has been met with complete dismay by farmers in the north west of England.

While large areas of the region – with the exception of parts of Cheshire – remain relatively clear of TB, badger populations are on the increase everywhere. And farmers are living in fear, expecting that it will only be a matter of time before infection spreads north.

Cumbria milk producer David Knowles, who milks 60 cows alongside the farm’s main sheep enterprise near Kendal,  said a decision would be “absolutely ridiculous”.

“There’s no common sense in not culling these badgers. It’s the only way of controlling the spread and judging by the numbers of badgers around now – in areas where they have never been found before – dairy farmers in this part of the world know they are sitting on a time-bomb.

“Farming always gets treated this way and has to fall in line behind the pressure of the welfare groups but this time I think the government will have made a seriously short-sighted decision that will have drastic implications for the dairy sector,” said David Knowles.

Cheshire-based dairy consultant and cattle breeder Paul Findley said:
“It’s astonishing to imagine that the government could be faced with a solution to this serious problem and totally ignore it.  It’s purely a political decision to win votes from the welfare people who have no idea of the very serious impact TB continues to have on a dairy industry trying to recover from its deepest financial depression.

“It’s a nightmare for all of us in dairy farming and one that will come back to haunt this government,” commented Paul Findley.

And Lancashire dairy farmer Jimmy Hull, who runs the Fortland Holstein herd with sons Andrew and Leslie at Garstang described the decision not to cull badgers as “totally illogical”.

“This will prove to be a very bad decision that shows how little this government understands the plight of dairy farmers having to cope with the impact of TB,” said Mr Hull.

Auctioneer Chris Norton of Cirencester-based auctioneers Norton and Brooksbank, said the north west was a key dairy producing area of the UK that could have been saved from the risk of infection if the cull had been allowed to go ahead.

“But TB is spreading and those who have managed to stay clear so far must now be very concerned indeed. I am totally flabbergasted by the government’s total failure to recognise the importance of a badger cull. To walk away from it at this stage – and to refuse to comment about it at this week’s Royal Show – proves that we have a ministry running our industry that is out of touch with reality.”

Farmers in the midlands have also reacted strongly. Andrea and John Jones said their farm in Lydbury, Shropshire, was surrounded by TB infected farms.