Badger culls to combat bovine TB have begun in Somerset despite protests

The NFU has pledged to ensure the “successful delivery” of the pilot badger culls as it confirmed the culls have begun.

NFU president Peter Kendall announced the cull had started in a letter to members this morning. The cull began in Somerset today and is expected to kick off in Gloucestershire later this week.

Kendall said the livestock industry cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of bovine TB, while the disease exists in wildlife uncontrolled. “It is why the NFU will be working with the pilot companies to ensure the successful delivery of these pilot culls over the coming weeks.”

“We won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle”

Owen Paterson

Kendalls admitted that “badger control” is a controversial subject and some people would never agree with controlling badgers by culling. However, he added: “I am confident that through the combined efforts of farmers, the NFU and government over the last year to illustrate the impact TB has on farms, and the scientific basis for badger control, more people than ever recognise the need to address the disease in badgers.”

Kendall highlighted the results of the NFU’s own survey this summer, which showed that two-thirds of the public either supported or had no opinion on the badger culls.

In a statement issued this morning by Defra, environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.

“That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.”

Writing in The Guardian, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh MP said: “A cull will be bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife. The government’s own analysis says that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on police given the expected protests, and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disrupted by the shooting.”

She urged the government to “stop, listen to the scientific evidence and abandon the cull”.

More than 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012 due to bovine TB. New herd incidents in Great Britain have risen from 1,075 in 1996 to 5,171 in 2012. In 2012, 6,919 herds were under restrictions due to bovine TB, according to Defra.

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