Government to kill 12,000badgers in cattle TB probe

18 August 1998

Government to kill 12,000
badgers in cattle TB probe

GOVERNMENT ministers have given the go-ahead for a cull of 12,000 badgers in an attempt to discover what role they play in spreading tuberculosis (TB) to dairy cattle. The scheme is expected to last five years.

Jeff Rooker, the food safety minister, said: “This has been one of the most difficult decisions facing ministers at the Ministry of Agriculture. Our policy objective is not to eradicate badgers, but to control TB in cattle.”

The culling trial will start this year in six “hot-spot” areas of the country where tuberculosis in cattle is running at the highest level and where the disease is also commonly found in badgers. Three of the six areas involved in the trial are on the borders of Devon and Cornwall. The remaining three areas are on the borders of Gloucestershire and Hereford and Worcester.

The aim of the scheme is to test the effect of different culling strategies on the incidence of bovine TB and to compare the results with areas where there was no culling. The limited culling previously conducted by the ministry will cease. Mr Rooker said that policy had failed.

The move represents a dilution of radical plans previously drawn up by John Krebs, Royal Society Research Professor in the Zoology Department of Oxford University. He had proposed that culls should begin immediately and there should be no phasing. He also said that lactating sow badgers should be included.

The ministry has come down in favour of a closed season in the cull during February, March and April in deference to animal welfare groups. Mr Rooker said this meant that most lactating sows would be spared, to avoid leaving cubs without a mother.

The number of herds for which TB outbreaks were reported rose from 449 in 1995 to 515 last year.

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