Badger cull licences proposed for TB hotspot farmers

A A A

Farmers in England will be issued licences to cull badgers in TB hotspots under proposals published by the Government today to help tackle spiralling rates of the disease in cattle.





The plans put forward for consultation would require farmers to meet the costs of culling the wild animals, which are known to carry and spread TB to livestock, on their land.



The proposals, which would allow farmers to use vaccination of badgers on its own or in combination with culling, aim to tackle the high incidence of the disease, particularly in south west England, which cost the taxpayer £63 million last year.



But the plans are likely to prove controversial, as some scientists believe culling badgers will not "meaningfully" contribute to tackling the disease in livestock.



The environment department (Defra) said culls would have to go ahead over a sufficiently large area - 150 square kilometres - to be effective and would have to meet strict criteria on animal welfare.



The previous government ruled out a cull because ministers said it was not supported by the science, and moves to bring in a programme of culling in Wales were recently quashed by the Court of Appeal.



Today agriculture minister Jim Paice said: "Bovine TB is having a devastating effect on many farm businesses and families, especially in the west and south west of England.



"Last year 25,000 cattle were slaughtered because of the disease and it cost the taxpayer over £63 million in England alone.



"We can't go on like this. It's clear the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread."



He said that no single measure would be enough to tackle the disease on its own.



But he said that the science was clear that badgers were a "significant reservoir" for TB and without action to control the disease in them, it would continue to spread.









Mr Paice said TB in livestock caused "immense trauma" among farmers.



He said: "I don't want to be out there culling badgers if it's not really necessary, but I am persuaded that all evidence shows we have to, as part of a comprehensive package of measures, face up to the need to control badgers in the worst areas."



A 10-year study into the effects of culling badgers concluded it was not a cost-effective way of tackling TB in cattle and caused disturbances to badger groups which led them to move around - further spreading the disease in the areas around the cull.



But more recent analysis of the trial culls found that widespread, repeated culling of badgers could reduce the incidence of disease in cattle herds and that benefits lasted for several years after culling ceased.



But the research by Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) found the badger culling, by trapping and shooting them, cost more than the impacts of the disease - although a cheaper option was to license farmers to carry out the cull.



Under the proposals laid out by the Government today, groups of farmers and landowners could apply for a licence to cull badgers in their area, if they met a number of conditions to ensure it was effective and humane.



The area must be at least 150 square kilometres and the farmers must have access to at least 70% of that land to cull. The cull would have to continue for at least four years and must be co-ordinated across the whole area.



Where possible, it should be surrounded by "hard" boundaries, such as rivers or coastline, to prevent badgers moving outside the cull area and increasing rates of TB in the vicinity.



The badgers would have to be trapped and shot or - a much cheaper option - shot in the wild, for example as they emerged from their setts, and there would be a closed season to prevent young cubs being orphaned while they were still in the sett unable to fend for themselves.



Defra experts said culling was being put forward as an option because it had immediate benefits, but the medium to long-term strategy for tackling the disease would revolve around increased use of vaccines.



Mr Paice said that within five or six years, it was hoped an oral vaccine for badgers and vaccines for cattle would be available.



Farmers are already able to apply for licences to trap and inject badgers with the TB vaccine, and Mr Paice said that might be an option for landowners within proposed cull areas who did not want to kill badgers on their land.



He said he would not be surprised if the proposals, which will be decided on early next year, faced legal challenge and acknowledged there could be problems from opponents over the controversial plans.



"It would be stupid to say we don't anticipate any aggravation, but we have been in close contact with the Home Office and senior police and we hope most reasonable people will say we have followed not just the letter of the law, but that we've done everything we possibly can to reduce the problem and explain the reasons behind it."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea