NFU president Peter Kendall has warned a negative decision from DEFRA on culling badgers as part of a TB control strategy would be completely devastating to farming families and their businesses.

“Current speculation on a negative decision on badger culling remains just that, speculation, based on a leaked report”, said Mr Kendall.

“However, in the event the decision on tackling bovine TB does not include measures for badgers, it is clear this would be a devastating decision for farmers and their families, for their businesses and for the wider rural communities in areas which have been ravaged by TB.

“Last year saw 28,000 cattle culled with TB, and already in the first quarter of 2008 another 13,500 cattle have been lost. This sort of needless waste of productive animals is unacceptable and calls into question the government’s attitude not only to food security but also to animal welfare.

“A negative decision on badger culling would condemn not only tens of thousands more cattle to death, but also thousands of badgers in areas currently free of TB. It would be nothing short of a disaster.”

Abdication of responsibility

Mr Kendall said the NFU would seek immediate legal advice to challenge any negative ruling in the courts. He also warned that wider discussions with government on cost and responsibility sharing on animal disease would be untenable, faced with what could only be described as an abdication of responsibility on the issue of TB.

“Alongside any legal challenge, we will also be holding an industry demonstration and lobby of MPs next Tuesday, to drive home the message that any strategy to tackle TB has to take into account the wildlife reservoirs of that disease.

“Such important decisions, which affect thousands of farming families around the country, cannot be left to the whim of opinion polls but need clear, objective thinking based on scientific fact,” said Mr Kendall.

An official announcement is expected on Monday (7 July).

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