Natural England cull licensing under fire

Natural England has been called on to stand down from its licensing role in DEFRA’s proposed badger cull after it expressed concerns over how effective shooting badgers would be in eradicating bovine TB.

The National Beef Association said Natural England was not the best agency to hand out cull licences after it made a submission to DEFRA’s TB consultation which said it had a “low level of confidence” that a cull would work.

The association’s TB committee said Natural England should be replaced with government agency Animal Health, which it believed would be better placed to take responsibility for the cull and monitor its conduct.

The committee said it did not approve of Natural England’s “lack of enthusiasm for the important tasks required of it” and also questioned the agency’s neutrality on badger culling.

“Natural England, even though it has accepted the job as licensing authority for the proposed badger cull, has nevertheless made clear that it is not keen to take on the work and also has reservations about the effectiveness of badger culling itself,” the committee said in a statement.

“Natural England appears to be gold plating the licensing process, which will make them possibly unworkable.”

As Natural England’s role in the badger cull would be administrative rather than the field work or conservation work it usually carried out, the committee said it was not the most appropriate body to manage the proposed cull.

“It is important that all aspects of the proposed cull are overseen by an organisation that is capable of doing the job without bias,” the NBA committee added.

“Because TB management is fundamentally a disease control issue the NBA strongly believes Natural England’s duties should be passed on to specialists within Animal Health. 

“Animal Health has disease control and management at the heart of its priorities and also has responsibility for all other animal health issues.”

The committee of farmers said moving responsibility over the Animal Health was still possible – even though the cull consultation was coming to an end on 20 September.

“Because the five year period that covers Natural England’s installation as the licensing authority ends on 29 October and opens the way to a Government review of its suitability to the task in hand,” they added

“Government has a legal obligation to eradicate TB, which is a notifiable disease, from all susceptible species to protect public health. This is not a wildlife issue on its own.  

“This being the case the principle competent authority to oversee the proposed badger cull is the government’s own Animal Health department”.

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