Talks urged on badger cull

12 March 2009

by Pat Ashworth

Under threat? A badger in woodland near Stoodleigh, Devon PA

Under threat? A badger in woodland near Stoodleigh, Devon PA

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.”

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