Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Badger cull delayed until next year

Controversial plans to cull thousands of badgers in the South West to tackle tuberculosis in cattle are to be delayed until next summer, it has been announced.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told MPs that culling was originally delayed by the Olympics and legal proceedings, and now by bad weather and the news that there were more badgers in the cull areas than previously estimated.

​In a Commons statement today, Mr Paterson said: “Despite a greatly increased effort over the last few days and weeks, the farmers delivering this policy  have concluded that they cannot be confident that it will be possible to remove enough badgers based on these higher numbers and considering the lateness of the season.

“It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70% of the populations.

“Today I have received a letter from the President of the NFU, on behalf of the companies coordinating the culls, explaining why they do not feel they can go ahead this year and requesting that they be postponed until next summer. In these circumstances, it is the right thing to do and, as the people who have to deliver this policy on the ground and work within the science, I respect their decision.

“The Government is determined to tackle bovine TB by all the means available to us. Now, in the next few months, we will ensure that the pilot culls can be implemented effectively, in the best possible conditions, with the right resources.

“Having looked at all the evidence over many years, I am utterly convinced that badger control is the right thing to do, and indeed the higher than expected badger numbers only serve to underline the need for urgent action. I remain fully committed to working with the farming industry to ensure that the pilot culls can be delivered effectively, safely and humanely next summer.”

The criteria for the two pilots included the need to successfully remove a minimum of 70 per cent of the local population, which the scientific evidence has shown is required in order to have a positive effect in reducing TB.

Today’s announcement comes after the National Farmers Union (NFU) informed Defra and the Government that they could not be confident of removing the required minimum 70 per cent of the badgers in the two pilot areas in the South West this autumn.

Recent survey results revealed that the estimated badger populations of 4,300 in West Somerset and 3,600 in West Gloucestershire were far higher than previous data suggested.

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