04 February 1999
Government to expand badger cull?

THE government is bracing itself for a confrontation with conservationists over plans to expand its cull of badgers in a bid to halt the spread of tuberculosis (TB).

Some 800 farms at any one time are thought to be suffering outbreaks of TB among their dairy and beef herds. The badger is regarded as the agent of transmission for the disease.

Animal protection groups say there is no firm evidence to support the view that the badger is responsible.

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, told the National Farmers Union annual conference that the government was determined not to allow the spread of TB.

The government allowed a limited cull, beginning last December, over five years to test for links between TB in badgers, cattle and humans. There is a ban on killing badgers outside the cull zones, even on farms infected with TB.

Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFUs animal health committee, said the number of farms affected by TB last year rose by 60%. He also said it had now spread from the south-west as far as Cheshire. The NFU has suggested a number of measures, including badger culls.

It has also asked for government subsidies to help farmers unable to put their animals on pastures near setts with TB-infected badgers.

  • The Guardian 04/02/99 page 5