DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson says he “will not flinch” in the battle to eradicate bovine tuberculosis – from badgers as well as cattle.

Mr Paterson was speaking during an NFU fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday (30 September).

“I will put it absolutely on the record again: we will not remove bovine TB from our cattle unless we also remove bovine tuberculosis from our wildlife,” he said.

“By whatever means, I can promise you that for as long as I am I around we will pursue methods to remove bovine TB from our diseased badgers.”

Referring to the two ongoing pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, Mr Paterson said the aim was to test the efficiency, humaneness and safety of shooting badgers.

“We will analyse the results of these two pilots and we will decide the next steps,” he said. The plan was to extend the cull to up to 10 more pilot areas next year.

No country had tackled the scourge of TB without tackling the disease in wildlife.

Bovine TB was a horrible disease for badgers, said Mr Paterson. “The badgers die a horrible, disgusting, long, lingering death – there is a real animal welfare issue here.”

The government wanted healthy badgers living alongside health cattle, he added.

More on this topic

Badger vaccination trial to start in west Cornwall