23 November 2001
No badger culling before May
By Isabel Davies
CULLING badgers to see whether they transmit tuberculosis to cattle is unlikely to resume before next May, the government has confirmed.
But routine testing of livestock for the disease could restart within weeks.
A DEFRA spokesman said it was unlikely culling would take place before a closed season, which prevents badgers being killed between February and April.
Vets in south-west England are preparing to routinely test cattle
for TB soon, he added.
Jan Rowe, National Farmers Union animal health committee vice chairman, said getting a normal testing regime back up and running was a priority.
“There has been some testing of short-interval herds but vets have been so busy with foot-and-mouth they have not been able do more.
“This is a resource issue and vets now need to be moved away from foot and mouth work,” said Mr Rowe.
Mr Rowe admitted that the union was getting increasingly concerned about the progress of the culling trials and would like them to restart before May.
Conservationists who oppose badger culling claim trial results will be flawed because cattle in some areas were slaughtered in the foot and mouth outbreak.
Elaine King, of the National Federation of Badger Groups, said farmers who were restocking by moving cattle from TB-infected areas to clean areas.
“There is a huge backlog in TB testing and a lot of cattle will be moved to new areas of the country before testing.
“We could see an upsurge of the disease in clean counties. It will be difficult to factor that back into the trial.”
Dr King said it would be interesting to see if the government increased other
research on bovine TB or shelved it because of cost considerations.