Prince Charles asked former prime minister Tony Blair and his government to look again at introducing a cull of badgers, saying he did not understand the “badger lobby”.
In a series of extraordinary “secret letters”, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, the prince urges Mr Blair in 2005 to think again about introducing a cull.
“All I can say is that I do urge you again to look at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary,” the prince tells Mr Blair.
He then launches a scathing attack on anti-cull campaigners, accusing them of being “intellectually dishonest”.
“I, for one, cannot understand how the ‘badger lobby’ seem to mind not at all about the slaughter of thousands of expensive cattle, and yet object to a managed cull of an over-population of badgers – to me, this is intellectually dishonest.”
His Royal Highness says the most pressing and urgent problem in agriculture is “without doubt, the rising number of TB cases in cattle”.
“As I think I mentioned, TB is affecting 5,000 farms each year, 20,000 head of cattle are being slaughtered and the cost to the taxpayer is £100m annually.
“As you know, all the evidence is that TB is caused and spread by badgers.”
Addressing the PM directly, the Prince of Wales continues: “You said that you were aware of the recent study in the Republic of Ireland which proved that badger culling is effective in ridding cattle of TB – in Donegal, for instance, by the fifth year of the trial there was a 96% reduction of cattle infection in badger ‘removal’ areas.”
Prince Charles takes issue with the Labour government over its plans to introduce a 10-year strategic framework for the control of TB – because it does not include badger culling.
“As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that this will include a commitment to deal with the badger problem in the immediate future, although there is a strong rumour that the government may be intending to reduce the levels of compensation to farmers, something which, I happen to think, would be less than fair and would provoke real anger amongst farmers.
The prince says TB is resulting in an “appalling waste of valuable cattle”. He adds: “My real fear is that unless something is done urgently we could end up with another food scare and I know you remember only too well BSE and FMD.”
In particular, raw milk cheese producers, were “deeply fearful” of what may happen to them and their businesses, Prince Charles writes.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright MP lost a lengthy legal battle over the publication of letters from Prince Charles to government ministers. The letters, which cover a range of farming issues, were made public on Wednesday (13 May).