THE DIOCESE of Bath & Wells hopes to facilitate discussions between farmers, animal-welfare groups, and the Government, as the number of bovine TB cases continues to rise in south-west England.
A report from the chairman of the diocesan rural-life group, Tom Done, highlighted bankruptcy and depression among farmers who were unable to sell their stock. But he had not called for a mass cull of badgers, as had been reported in the local press, said the diocese’s rural-life adviser, the Revd Robert Widdowson, on Tuesday.
Mr Done was quoted in a diocesan news release last week as saying: “It is a fact that no one, including most farmers, wants to see a mass cull of all badgers, but, in the interests of cattle, badgers, and farmers, it will be necessary to control the badger population.”
About 20,000 cattle had to be slaughtered on the region’s farms last year (Comment, 27 February). An independent scientific group concluded in 2007: “While badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger-culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle-TB control in Britain.”
The Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, announced last year that licences should not be issued for badger-culling for TB control. Instead, £20 million would be invested over a three-year period to develop usable cattle and badger vaccines and maintain cattle controls.
“Having listened carefully to a wide range of views from scientists, farming, veterinary, and wildlife organisations . . . and considered all the evidence, I have decided that, while such a cull might work, it might also not work,” he concluded.
Reports that said the Church was calling for a badger cull were described by Mr Widdowson as “horrendous”. “That’s the very opposite of what we want to do. . . We simply want to get people round the table to have some sensible conversation.”