The government is set to launch a consultation paper on whether to allow an industry-funded badger cull in a bid to control bovine tuberculosis, farm minister Jim Paice has said.
Speaking at the CLA Game Fair in Warwickshire on Friday (23 July), Mr Paice said a consultation would be launched in the autumn to look at ways of tackling the disease in badgers and cattle.
The document will set out a range of measures including cattle movement controls, vaccination and targeting the reservoir of disease in badgers through implementing a cull.
Mr Paice said he was convinced of the science behind killing badgers but he wanted a public debate around alternative ways of eradicating they disease, as well discussions about how and where a cull could be carried out.
“I’m not simply saying we will cull badgers,” he told a debate on what the government should do to help the countryside.
“There are a huge raft of questions, particularly around the legality of a cull, which need to be answered.
Mr Paice said if there was an alternative way of effectively tackling the disease without killing badgers he would attempt it.
“But the reality is there’s not a country in the world that’s got rid of TB without addressing the problem in wildlife,” he said.
“Yes, there’s an oral vaccine on the way but that’s not going to be available until 2015 at the earliest, and that’s even if we get the right to use it. We cant wait that long.”
Even if the drug was licenced for use in the UK, meat from vaccinated cattle could not be sold outside of the UK, he added.
“The evidence points to a cull being part of the solution – we have got to address the problem in the hotspot areas.”
Mr Paice said the Krebs trial, which carried out trials on culling badgers, had rejected a cull because it had concluded it was not economically viable.
But he said farmers would pick up the majority of the bill for any measures implemented as a result of the consultation.
“The industry has to cover most of the costs because government hasn’t the resources,” he added.
“The NFU and farmers won’t like every proposal in the document and I’m not fussed about that – I don’t want to pander to any group.
“But I have the clear belief that the science means we beed a badger cull.”
NFU president Peter Kendall said he applauded Mr Paice’s decision to launch a consultation and agreed that a cull had to be part of a range of measures to eradicate TB.
“TB is destroying the livestock industry in the UK. It’s a devastating disease and I dont want to see it get worse and worse in wildlife.
“A vaccine has to be done, but hand in hand with controling the reservoir of disease.”
But Paul Batchelor, League Against Cruel Sports chief executive, warned a badger cull “would not deliver” on the things Mr Paice said it would.
“Farming will lose public support massively,” he said. “Its a disaster area for farming to be seen to be persecuting wildlife.
“It’s bad news when you want support from the public – why are you even contemplating it?”
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