20 November 1998

Brock campaign builds up steam

WILDLIFE campaigners have stepped up their fight against the culling of thousands of badgers during the governments impending investigation into tuberculosis in cattle.

The campaigners claim that government trials, due to start within two weeks, will involve the culling of an estimated 20,000 badgers and breach the Berne Convention which protects European wildlife.

In an effort to get the cull halted, the conservationists will take their case to the conventions annual meeting in Strasbourg early next month. But they will have to move fast.

MAFF officials have already identified the first six sites in the trial to determine any link between TB in badgers and cattle. Traps were laid and prebaited this week in the Putford area of Devon. A preliminary government survey suggests that a possible 500 badgers in the region will be shot.

"We have been told weve got a very strong case," said Elaine King, conservation officer for the National Federation of Badger Groups. "We cant make the government change its plans but we can cause them a lot of embarrassment."

Dr King claimed that the government had inadequately examined alternative methods of controlling TB in badgers before embarking on the cull.

FARMERS WEEKLY has already revealed that staff at MAFF laboratories analysed badgers livers to determine whether or not trace elements can boost immunity to the disease (News, Oct 30).

Junior farm minister Jeff Rooker said the results of the study had to be scrutinised to ensure reliability before they were made public.

"Once they have been peer reviewed we expect to publish them," Mr Rooker wrote in a letter published in this weeks FARMERS WEEKLY (see page 78). "We will also assess them to see if more focused research in this area is warranted."