Two thirds of Britons are opposed to a badger cull to curb bovine TB, according to an opinion poll by the BBC.
The phone poll, commissioned by the BBC News website from pollsters GfK NOP, asked 1000 adults if badgers should be culled for cattle TB reasons.
63% of respondents said no, 31% said yes and the rest were undecided.
The proportion opposed was virtually identical in urban and rural areas.
Jack Reedy of the Badger Trust, which is leading opposition to a cull, told BBC News that the results were “heartening” although the final decision should come down to science.
He said he hoped that the poll results would lead “to a more balanced, sensible outcome that’s fair on badgers, fair on farmers and fair on the general public as well.”
But NFU president Peter Kendall said: “Our calls to tackle the terrible disease that is bovine TB has never been about eradicating badgers; it is about stopping a disease that is out of control in some of our really important dairy and beef farming areas.
“Bovine TB is a major cost to the UK tax payer, with a bill for dealing with the disease of £100m last year alone; the costs faced by the industry are considerably more.
“For farmers, the government’s commitment to look at introducing a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control, as part of a package of measures, in areas where there is high and persistent levels of bovine TB, is the only light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“The depressing facts speak for themselves. In 1998 almost 6,000 cattle were slaughtered to control the disease, and in the UK in 2010 32,737 animals were slaughtered. That’s tens of thousands of cattle being culled. Only by controlling TB in the hotspot areas we will help to ensure that other areas of the country remain disease-free. That has to be in everyone’s, and every animal’s, best interests.”
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