A Tory-led government will roll out badger culling to more areas as it seeks to eradicate bovine tuberculosis within 25 years, Defra secretary Liz Truss has pledged.
“I have been very clear that we will continue with the 25-year strategy,” Ms Truss told reporters at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (24 February).
“That does envisage a wider rollout of the culls,” said the Tory MP for south-west Norfolk.
Two pilot culls have been taking place in Somerset and Gloucestershire. But the policy has yet to be extended to other TB hotspot areas.
Labour Party view
With a general election less than three months away, the Labour Party has already pledged to abandon badger culling as a way of controlling bovine TB.
Labour argues that the government’s badger culling policy is based on unsound science and could actually make the disease worse as infected badgers flee the cull zones.
But Ms Truss said culling had been successful.
“What we’ve seen this year is success in Somerset,” she said. “There were some issues in Gloucestershire with sabotage but it shows it can work.”
Ms Truss said she was “absolutely clear” that dealing with bovine TB meant following the approach that had been successful in other countries.
Those countries included New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
Ms Truss said: “That does include culling where the disease is rife.”
Culling was part of a comprehensive strategy and that was very important, said the minister. It included cattle controls and vaccination in the edge areas.
“I am clear that we will do whatever it takes to deal with the disease,” Ms Truss said.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said farmers had seen a “huge reduction” in bovine TB over the past two years in Somerset and in Gloucestershire.
“When you think of the intimidation that has taken place – particularly in Gloucester – we have still seen success and we still have areas of the country where the disease is endemic.”
Groups of farmers were determined to move ahead, said Mr Raymond. “That determination is still there with all the sorts of obstacles and issues we have faced over the past two years.”
The farming industry saw culling as part a comprehensive strategy and that would eradicate this disease rather than killing 28,000 cattle annually in England alone.
Bovine TB was having a huge impact on farmers’ ability to produce as well as bringing with it hefty financial consequences and human misery.
“We are under restriction at home – I know exactly what it feels like.
“To see the determination within the farming community to follow through this strategy says to me that we have to hold on to this strategy at all costs.”