16 May 1997

Badger cull may stop despite fear of TB spreading

By Liz Mason

MAFF may call a complete halt to badger culling despite demands from the NFU and vets for extended culling to curb the spread of bovine TB.

Labour said in its manifesto that it would introduce a moratorium on badger culling, until a full scientific review of current TB control was complete.

Elliot Morley, new minister responsible for animal welfare and countryside matters, told FW Labours manifesto pledge was now being considered.

"A moratorium is certainly one of the issues we are looking at and the review is under way by Prof Krebs," said Mr Morley.

Justifying the decision to consider a moratorium, which comes when TB is confirmed to have spread throughout the west Mids and into Derbyshire, Mr Morley said it was clear the current interim strategy was a complete failure. "Everybody, including farmers, unanimously agree that the present system of badger removal is a waste of time. It is not working."

But he declined to comment on other policy options, including gassing and an extension of badger culling, saying ministers were waiting for the outcome of the Krebs review. A moratorium would fly in the face of advice from the British Veterinary Association. In written evidence to the Krebs review it said "extended and rigorous culling of badgers in new (breakdown) areas offers the best available control".

Hants farmer Hugh Oliver Bellasis, a member of the NFUs TB and badger working group, said there was wide agreement that the interim strategy was not working. But what was needed was a strategy, recommended in past reports to government, to cull badgers out of TB infected areas.

The health of the national cattle herd was under threat because previous governments had failed to implement such a policy.

"To risk more farmers businesses and more cattle lives for the sake of actually taking what most scientists recommend as the sensible route, which is to cull out pockets that are known to have TB, seems to be completely running against the precautionary principle and good sense," he said.

Questioning the new governments priorities he asked: "What is more important, the people that I and the NFU spend my life trying to help or an animal that in large parts of the country is not in danger or endangered?" &#42