MPs raise concerns over DEFRA’s badger culling consultation

The House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA) has expressed concerns over proposals put forward by DEFRA in its consultation document on culling badgers in areas of high TB incidence.

To the disappointment of the NFU and the Country Land and Business Association the EFRA committee restricted its criticisms solely to the consultation document and did not offer an opinion or guidance on the role or usefulness of badger culling as a control strategy.

The EFRA committee’s key criticisms of the consultation are:

  • The lack of a pre-consultation survey of scientific experts or interested parties when formulating the questions and scenarios presented in the document;
  • A lack of consideration given to the perturbation effect [where the incidence of TB increases in herds on the periphery of a culling zone];
  • A lack of consideration given to the impact a TB breakdown has on the farmers and their families;
  • Concerns about the number of suitably trained personnel to able carry out the culling; and
  • A lack of consideration given to the impact of measures other than badger culling.

It also requests that should the government opt for a culling strategy different from the approach advocated by the Independent Scientific Group [one that uses areas of at least 300 sq km] it should publish details of the science underpinning its conclusions on the consultation exercise.
NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond criticised the EFRA committee for not adopting a more robust approach or introducing any clarity in to what is already a difficult issue. 

“The report should have focussed on the fact that it is completely pointless to address the problem of cattle to cattle infection with pre-movement testing if the disease remains in surrounding wildlife,” said Mr Raymond.
Sarah Slade, TB spokeswoman for the CLA, added: “It’s a shame that they are asking questions without providing answers.  It’s also disappointing they have been so reliant on the ISG and appear to have ignored the results of other trials which have been conclusive in proving the badgers involvement.”

National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster questioned whether DEFRA had the conviction to announce a cull.  “It’s a question of whether the government has got the bottle to take the necessary action.  This is our last chance to tackle this disease before it gets completely out of hand as there will never be the same level of resolve within the industry.”

The EFRA report was welcomed by the Badger Trust and the Soil Association.