Minister tells farmers to lay off the badgers

Farm minister Jim Paice has urged farmers to focus on the problems associated with bovine TB and to stop linking other countryside problems to badgers.

In response to one farmer who said “I don’t feel we’re moving fast enough and quick enough on TB” during a question time session at this year’s Beef Expo, Mr Paice said challenges arising from the TB consultation were proving difficult to resolve. And he said any legislation would have to be tight enough to withstand a judicial review from the Badger Trust.

“We will be making an announcement before the end of July, and it will be a substantial document with a whole range of policies,” he added.

BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson said the industry would need to work together with conservationists to tackle the problem, and praised Mr Paice for making some “forward progress”.

Marcus O’Sullivan managing director at JBS Global said any decisions on how to tackle the disease should not be based solely on financial aspects. “We need to move forward – the sooner the better,” he said.

This view was shared by Chris Dodds, executive secretary at the Livestock Auctioneers Association. He said: “If we want to get rid of this disease, the cost of testing should not be the only deciding factor.”

EBLEX sector director Nick Allen added: “We have waited a long time in this industry to get to this point and it’s nice to have a minister who has his own cattle and knows the pain we have been going through for the past few years.”

In response to a suggestion from one farmer that badgers were to blame for other countryside problems, Mr Paice urged the industry to stick to the issue of bovine TB and not to “hand weapons to those who oppose the principles”.

“I think we have got to be very careful as an industry that we keep our concentration on the key issue at the moment; our issue is not killing badgers, it’s to cure TB,” he said.