9 July 1999

Badger culling trial is refused an extension

By Isabel Davies

THE government has ruled out the prospect of any immediate action to extend the Krebs badger culling trial. But it pledged to consider to introducing additional measures to control bovine TB in the future.

In a report released this week, the government says that it is important not to divert resources away from the current Krebs trial.

But ideas for additional action, which could include a localised badger cull in areas outside existing trial zones as proposed by the NFU, merit "serious consideration".

In the meantime, the Krebs trial must remain a priority along with research and cattle testing programmes.

But the report – the governments reply to parliaments agriculture select committee report on badgers and TB – admits that the implementation of the Krebs trial has not gone to plan.

And it blames delays that have arisen on "unrealistic expectations" about how long it would take to finalise the trial programme.

It acknowledges the need to press ahead but adds that budgetary constraints will prevent the implementation of all 10 trial areas by February 1999, as had been recommended by MPs.

No indication is given as to when this might finally be achieved.

The lack of resources is also stopping the government from increasing compensation to reflect the consequential losses associated with herd breakdowns, the report says.

And it rejects the proposal that accelerated research, to investigate husbandry measures most likely to assist in the control of the disease, should government-funded.

"It is in farmers own interests to develop husbandry practices which minimise the financial losses from TB," it concludes.

Richard Young, policy and campaign advisor for the Soil Association, adds that he was surprised government did not make comparing the TB history of organic and non-organic farms a priority.

The association believes that the incidence of TB is much lower on organic farms and that key pointers to the diseases spread, lie in a comparison of conventional and organic farming.

"We feel the government is missing a point here, " he said.

Meanwhile, NFU health and welfare committee chairman Brian Jennings criticised government for not taking immediate action.

"Disease figures for TB are spiralling out of control and the government seems to have no sense of urgency at all," he said.