Farmers have praised DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman for taking the ‘difficult’ decision to sanction two pilot badger culls.
The Tenant Farmers Association paid tribute to the minister saying the move might give farming families living with the disease some hope for the future.
TFA national chairman Jeremy Walker said: “I appreciate how very difficult it has been to make today’s announcement. The Secretary of State has had many competing factors to consider in making her decision, not least those raised by groups with legitimate concerns about the animal welfare considerations involved.”
But Mr Walker added that bovine TB was a horrible disease that led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle each year.
And it was right that control measures were extended to the badger population as well as cattle.
“The TFA will be working closely with DEFRA to ensure that the pilot culling areas operate within the highest standards including those relating to animal welfare,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that the pilots will not become the focus of criminal interference. Not only will that lead to the tying up of scarce police resources but risks the maintenance of the high animal welfare standards required and human safety.”
NFU president Peter Kendall said he too was relieved that DEFRA had committed to the two pilots.
“Today is another massive step forward in achieving our end goal of a healthy countryside – both for badgers and for cattle,” he said.
“I commend DEFRA for introducing these two pilot areas to confirm the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting.
Mr Kendall said the most recent science showed badger controls were absolutely necessary, together with cattle controls, to get on top of TB.
“However, I want to remind everyone this has never been about eradicating badgers; this is about eradicating disease. And there are some serious challenges ahead.
“But we take this issue extremely seriously and we remain committed to working with DEFRA and Natural England to deliver an effective TB control plan. This has never been and will not be a quick fix and we’re fully prepared for that.”
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