Pressure mounts for new targeted badger cull

Rumours are growing that the government will consult before Christmas on measures to combat bovine tuberculosis, including a return to badger culling.

Farm industry contacts have told Farmers Weekly that they remain confident DEFRA is working towards a new set of proposals to tackle bovine TB in all infected species.

A consultation will not begin before the end of November but cannot be ruled out ahead of the Christmas break, one source said.

The rumours grew as DEFRA published the latest set of TB statistics which showed that the number of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain had continued to rise.

During September, 2252 cattle were slaughtered, an increase of 10.6% on the previous month.

At 23,332 the number of cattle slaughtered since January is up 35% on the same 10-month period last year.

England is the worst-affected country in Great Britain accounting for 77% of the animals slaughtered.

And the West Country is the worst-hit region accounting for 86% of all TB-related slaughtering in England.

Wales accounted for 22% of slaughtered beasts since January with Dyfed the worst affected county in the principality.

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, said the increase in numbers no longer surprised him.

“These figures continue to prove that TB is not going to go away.

We want the disease tackled at its source and that’s with badgers,” said Mr Forster.

Jan Rowe, the NFU’s animal health and welfare spokesman, echoed Mr Forster’s comments, but added that he was also concerned about the lack of communication between DEFRA and the farming industry on how to develop a strategy to tackle the disease.

“I have a feeling of worried frustration at the moment,” said Mr Rowe.

“We know there’ll be a policy announcement soon, but are concerned by the lack of industry involvement in developing a sustainable working policy,” he said.