FW Comment: Hilary Benn appears unaware of the risk infected badgers pose to cattle

If ignorance is bliss then DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn must be one of the happiest men in England today as he appears to have ignored all the scientific evidence put before him on TB in badgers and opted not to allow a cull of badgers in TB hotspots, says Jonathan Long, livestock editor.

Despite his department producing a DVD which devotes more than 90% of its content to minimising contact between badgers and cattle in order to minimise spread of the disease to cattle, Mr Benn appears unaware of the risk infected badgers pose to cattle. And he is happy to see cattle and their owners suffer at the hands of TB.

With 40,000 cattle expected to be needlessly culled for TB this year and the number of infected farms rising year on year, any rational human being could see something needed to be done to cut the disease reservoir in the wildlife population. Sadly, Mr Benn appears not to care a jot about reasoned, rational thinking.

Krebs trial

Today’s announcement will leave many farming families wondering just where they turn now. They cannot afford to continue losing cattle to TB while being paid below market price compensation. DEFRA it seems is happy to fiddle while the English cattle industry burns.

Allegedly Mr Benn does not believe the evidence eminating from badger culling trials. But with Krebs trial results showing a 23% reduction in TB where badgers were culled there surely has to be hope that a cull would have a positive affect.

Unfortunately, in not opting for a licensed cull Mr Benn may in fact have made things worse not better for the badger population.

Unlicensed slaughter

Farmers, many of whom are at the end of their tethers, may sadly opt to take the situation into their own hands and could decimate badger numbers across large tracts of the countryside.

While an unlicensed slaughter cannot be condoned, it is easy to understand why farmers feel they have been driven to such drastic measures.

The farming industry must now unite and push still harder to make DEFRA see sense on this matter. Its unwillingness to help farmers at this time will always be remembered and it is fair to say that in making one poorly reasoned and incredulous decision Mr Benn will have forever broken any bond of trust that existed between the farming industry and government.

No longer can there be any talk of cost and responsibility sharing on disease. Farmers have borne the cost of TB for too long and now DEFRA must stand up and take responsibility for its actions.

If farmers do undertake unlicensed badger culls it will only be DEFRA which is to blame, it could have opted to take control of the situation, instead it has opted to invite anarchy in the countryside.