New badger cull areas announced

4 October 2000

New badger cull areas announced

By FWi staff

TWO new areas are to be included in controversial badger culling trials, the Ministry of Agriculture has announced.

Sites in Devon and Gloucestershire bring the number of areas enrolled in the trial to the target figure of 10.

The areas, known as triplets – all of which have high levels of tuberculosis in cattle – are divided into three different areas.

Within each a programme of surveying, reactive culling, or proactive culling is followed in an attempt to determine if badgers transmit bovine TB to cattle.

Announcing the new areas, junior farm minister Baroness Hayman said the trials were an important element in Government strategy to control TB in cattle.

“I am very encouraged that the trial remains on course to provide robust scientific results,” she said.

“The Government remains committed to its research programme, and co-operation from landowners has been very good.”

But Dr Elaine King of the National Federation of Badger Groups said the opposite was true:

“Im disappointed that more trials are taking place. They wont help farmers and are a waste of time and money.”

She claimed the trials were behind schedule and struggling because landowners were refusing to co-operate.

Data was skewed because some farmers were killing badgers in survey-only zones and members of the public were releasing captured animals, said Dr King.

She said better husbandry; further scrutiny of cattle movements; and research towards a vaccine would be more productive ways of tackling TB.

“Good hygiene will help reduce all diseases, not just TB, and lead to better productivity. This would benefit farmers, cattle and consumers,” said Dr King.

But Peter Rudman, National Farmers Union animal health and welfare advisor, said a wider approach was needed.

Improved husbandry only worked in some cases, while a vaccine was still a long way off, he said.

“We feel the badger is the main root cause and this trial will try to gauge the extent and how best to deal with it,” said Mr Rudman.

He said enough landowners were involved to give researchers a chance of producing something that would be helpful.

Cases of bovine TB have risen by 15-20% in the past year, with the West Country and Midlands worst affected.

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