We have serious concerns about the newly published government paper which sets out for the first time the scope and scale of the planned badger cull in England.
Today (Thursday 4 July) The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published its ‘Defra bovine TB 25 year Strategy’.
The strategy looks at the areas the government will be concentrating its resources on in a bid to eradicate bovine TB. It revealed the cull areas for the first time – ‘high risk’ areas are identified as 15 counties including all the southwest and west to Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Cheshire, West Midlands and East Sussex.
The strategy also ignores scientific opinion by continuing to give undue focus to culling badgers up until 2019, rather than prioritising non-lethal methods such as improving biosecurity, cattle movement and vaccination. However, we welcomed the news that cattle vaccination trials could start in 2014.
The consultation also proposes some new cost sharing measures with farmers but does not crack down on farmers breaking the TB rules. Leaving a serious question mark over the influence of the National Farmers Union (NFU) on Government policy.
‘Protected’ species will be slaughtered
RSPCA Chief Executive Gavin Grant said:
“There is far too much short term focus on culling badgers – this document sets out a plan that could eradicate up to 70 per cent of the badger population from almost half of England. That is a big chunk of a ‘protected’ species slaughtered over the next five years.”
Other points raised in the strategy include:
- Biosecurity measures are highlighted as voluntary measures
- Proposals would reduce compensation for farmers and increase it if they abided by biosecurity measures, or are members of assurance schemes but still allow movement of cattle from high risk areas to other areas.
- While recognising some farmers break TB rules, the strategy states this is through ignorance and advocates education rather than punishing farmers carrying out illegal acts under BTB controls, such as the removal of compensation.
- The consultation relies heavily on learning from New Zealand and Australia, however cost sharing there was stronger as farmers met all costs of testing and surveillance – while the strategy only proposes changes to compensation.
- The strategy does not propose changing the methods to deal with breakdowns in herds, such as culling only the infected cow rather than the whole herd which happens in many European countries.
The only real answer is vaccination
The European Commission have said the disease can only be eradicated by improving biosecurity and reducing the numbers of cattle being moved. They have also said that the 10 year timetable to develop a cattle vaccine could be reduced dramatically if the UK started vaccination trials now.
It is clear the government missed an opportunity when it scrapped the badger vaccination programmes and despite its own committee recommending Defra should play a leading role in coordinating these programmes, this has been ignored.
Gavin Grant added:
“This strategy had the potential to consign bovine TB to the history books as it is in almost all the other EU countries but it misses its target.
“We care equally about badgers and cattle but this cull simply will not work as a solution to bovine TB. The only real answer will be vaccination for both cattle and badgers, better biosecurity and control of cattle movements.”
Stop the badger cull!
The government in Westminster continue to ignore scientific, public and political opinion and it’s badgers who will pay the price!
Take action – call for a stop to the planned badger cull.
For the latest news about the badger cull visit our badger campaign page.
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