26 February 1999

Sentimental badger groups

WILDLIFE groups trying to get the governments badger culling trial halted were accused by MPs this week of being motivated by sentiment rather than reason.

Members of the Commons agriculture select committee suggested to representatives of the National Federation of Badger Groups and the Forest of Dean Badger Patrol that if rats rather than badgers had been linked with the spread of tuberculosis among the cattle there would be no objections to a culling programme.

But the conservationists were adamant that their desire to halt badger culling was because they did not believe that the trial would produce any meaningful results.

Illegal culling

Problems of non-compliance in trial areas and illegal culling by farmers made the trial unworkable, they maintained. And there was a possibility that, even by the end of the trial, there would be no conclusive answers.

"We want to see a solution to the problem. But if badgers are going to be killed it has to be for a good reason," said Elaine King, conservation officer with the NFBG.

"Farmers believe there is a link between badgers and bovine TB because that is what MAFF has told them for the past 25 years," she added.

Isabel Davies

And Simon Lyster, director general of The Wildlife Trusts, agreed that the trial was the wrong way of addressing the problem.

Money earmarked for culling should be spent on looking at why transmission occurred in some cases and not in others and how farmers could minimise the risks, he said.