VIDEO: West Country farmers’ view on badger cull

Farmers in the West Country bovine tuberculosis hotspot have given their reaction to DEFRA’s control plans for the disease.

Andrew Branton, near Tiverton, Devon, gave the plans a cautious welcome.

“We’ve had TB here a couple of times, and lost 11 cows last year. But I know some people who have just been destroyed by it. It’s a simple case of Russian Roulette.

“My initial reaction to the announcement was one of frustration; it is a positive step, but the first in a very long, long line of further steps.

“All the while, the disease is becoming more and more established in wildlife, so we’re leaving ourselves with a bigger problem to deal with down the line. And farmers still don’t have a legal way of protecting their livestock,” he said.

Anthony Rew, a beef farmer from Newton Abbot, Devon, said the government’s plans to introduce a badger cull were extremely positive.

“The industry has been struggling with this terrible disease for 10 or 15 years, and finally we seem to be turning a corner.

“It’s going to take a few more years to get rid of TB, but we have made a significant step on the right path. Finally, the government has stood up and done something of significance.

“But if no announcement had come the industry would have been so angry – and if it turns out to be a delaying tactic they will be angrier still.”

Mr Rew was convinced that by consulting on the culling method and holding initial trials in two hotspot areas, DEFRA was preparing a solid base on which to rebuff any judicial review.

“We’re all frustrated by the length of time it’s taken to get here, but this time last week we weren’t even sure it was going to happen. It is a slow step, but at least it is a sure step.”

But Dorset farmer James Bowditch, who keeps beef and dairy cattle near Bridport, said he was sick of waiting for government to grasp the nettle and tackle TB in wildlife.

“I find it a complete travesty that I’ve been working here for 14 years; we had TB when I came here and nothing has been done about it.

“Today’s announcement just compounds the problem – it is a small positive step, but the politicians just give into the badger groups all the time.”

Mr Bowditch said he was worried the consultation and pilot trials provided ever more opportunities for the government to back away from a cull.

“TB is moving out of the hotspot areas now, and is causing further and further damage. New herds which have never had TB are getting really badly hurt.

“No other business that is open to a biological hazard would allow that to go on; they would have environmental controls in place to protect their business.”

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View a transcript of our live chat about the badger cull decision.