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Environment Secretary: Why the badger cull in Gloucestershire is needed

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: September 24, 2013

Comments (31)

THE Government has come under intense scrutiny since the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire were announced. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson explains why the cull is vital.

BOVINE TB is the most pressing animal health problem in the UK.

What was once a disease isolated to small pockets – in 1972 only 0.01 per cent of cattle tested as infected – has now spread to counties beyond Gloucestershire's borders and will continue to spread across England unless we take more decisive action.

The number of new cases is doubling every nine years and in the last decade we have slaughtered 305,000 cattle across Great Britain.

Bovine TB cost the taxpayer nearly £100 million in 2012.

Every day farmers in Gloucestershire are dealing with the heartbreaking effects of bovine TB on their herds.

Infection has a devastating impact on the dairy and cattle industries, causing financial and emotional misery for farmers and rural communities.

If we go on like this we will see more farmers forced to shut down.

It's a sad fact that badgers are very effective at spreading TB, and it only takes one diseased badger to put a whole herd of cattle under TB restrictions.

We know that Gloucestershire is a TB hotspot – more than 10 per cent of TB tests on herds here come out positive.

As other countries make progress, the problem of bTB is getting worse in Britain.

This is despite us having stringent measures in place restricting the movement of cattle and ensuring all infected cattle are slaughtered.

It is clear that if we are to tackle this deadly bacterium, we must use every tool at our disposal. Vaccination also has a part to play and is something that we would all like to deploy more widely, but unfortunately it's not there yet in terms of either development or practicality.

We do have an injectable badger vaccine but it is difficult to use because it requires badgers to be trapped and vaccinated every year.

More importantly, vaccines don't cure sick badgers, so the significant proportion of badgers with TB in hotspot areas will continue to spread the disease for years.

Leading scientists in this country agree that if carried out in the right way, badger culling can lead to a reduced level of TB in cattle.

That's why we've taken the decision to undertake two pilot culls in the TB hotspots of Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The pilot culls, which are now underway, are intended to assess the humaneness, effectiveness and safety of controlled shooting as a method of badger control.

The effects of bovine TB are tragic not just because the disease destroys herds and livelihoods, but also because they are no longer unusual.

To stop these terrible blows to our cattle and dairy industry being repeated we must do whatever we can to stamp out this disease once and for all.

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31 comments

  • mmjames  |  September 25 2013, 1:56PM

    withrespect1 Wednesday, September 25 2013, 1:18PM Densest in the west? It would make perfect sense then to see hotspots/decline there. ..................... Please actually look at the maps! Badgerists blame farming practises - I'm asking why these practises get worse [in every area] and spread outwards.... maps show spread of TB between 1998 and 2010. http://tinyurl.com/pngfrb3 snip In the above maps the percentages of restricted herds in England were calculated by dividing the number of herds under TB movement restriction (non-OTF) by the total number of herds.

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  • withrespect1  |  September 25 2013, 1:18PM

    by mmjames Wednesday, September 25 2013, 11:31AM Why should there be a growing decline in good farming practice from Gloucestershire outwards as per these maps http://tinyurl.com/pngfrb3 but not over the rest of England?" Well, simple.. Is that not almost a CC of the distribution of dairy farms across UK? Densest in the west? It would make perfect sense then to see hotspots/decline there. inmho. Predominantly arable in the east? I do realise it is not a simple problem, as does everyone, surely. Badger population size (healthy)- surely is a different argument and one to be debated, analysed and addressed separately if the case? I realise we could debate this until the cows come home.. argh bad pun ;-)

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  • mmjames  |  September 25 2013, 11:31AM

    withrespect1 Wednesday, September 25 2013, 10:20AM Less head of cattle, less problems.. ............... Also applies to the now huge population of badgers. Once upon a time 1 badger per sq Km was considered a healthy population density. Now, in places, there are up to 37!!! badgers per sq Km. Why should there be a growing decline in good farming practice from Gloucestershire outwards as per these maps http://tinyurl.com/pngfrb3 but not over the rest of England?

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  • withrespect1  |  September 25 2013, 10:20AM

    re mmjames 2 "Cattle were kept in much longer at the beginning of THIS year due to bad weather, so not out on badger p1ss pastures" That's a valid point - I respect that and no one wants to see cattle living indoors either - it's not natural, and unnatural living = stressed cows and vulnerability to disease etc! Don't we all want happy cattle, happy farmers and badgers? The article says nothing was addressed re bTB in badger pop (which I read could be as low as 1%) Had anyone approached the charities about vaccination? There is no mention of addressing that. With so many £s spent, surely another investment would be badger health if it is one they fear the most? The other report re the lack of biosecurity - http://tinyurl.com/nvco7vo surely that should be driving the good farmers absolutely nuts! I don't see any anger from farmers (in the public forum) directed at their own who have flouted regs & the markets lax. Where is the frustration there? Can the industry, which I appreciate has had a tough time, not direct their energy at better price for milk, funding better welfare, less cows and positive feedback? There's a lot in the press, rightly so, that we should pay more, and use less. Less head of cattle, less problems.. It may seem simplistic but it makes sense, doesn't it? Good luck for that.

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  • mmjames  |  September 24 2013, 11:26PM

    Mikethepike Tuesday, September 24 2013, 8:42PM Spoligotype maps do NOT support your assertions.

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  • mmjames  |  September 24 2013, 11:24PM

    withrespect1 Tuesday, September 24 2013, 8:08PM AND as there is already a decrease in bTB since new regs earlier this year, .............. Cattle were kept in much longer at the beginning of THIS year due to bad weather, so not out on badger p1ss pastures. Of course some are now being kept in 24/7 on the advice of AHVLA ........ http://tinyurl.com/oklhq6e

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  • mmjames  |  September 24 2013, 11:21PM

    fischadler Tuesday, September 24 2013, 7:38PM "What a complete load of utter nonsense Paterson talks. Culls are NOT needed. What is needed is farmers to wake up and get their act together with better bio security, better animal welfare and less cattle movements. .............. Why are bad farming practises expanding outwards from Gloucestershire as the years go by? ........... http://tinyurl.com/pngfrb3

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  • Johnpoleman  |  September 24 2013, 9:36PM

    'mmjames' I have viewed your links and accept it is not easy to fence things 'out' However the second link did say they only had a problem once the badgers feeding area was made into housing etc. Wait until Nick Boles and HS2 concrete over the countryside !! But you have to start somewhere and at present you have two camps who have to meet somewhere. I think the obvious answer is a test on caged trapped badgers to identify BTB. I known it is difficult to find this test but at present we are all going nowhere and spending a lot of time and money from all sides. I am sure if the government put some money into this testing, instead of this cheap rate experiment to appease the NFU, we could all actually get somewhere.

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  • Mikethepike  |  September 24 2013, 8:42PM

    Usual nonsense from Paterson, the man who says no-one wants to kill badgers, but who admits in another interview he would like to see the badger's legal protection removed so that farmers could treat them as they treat rabbits and foxes...with a bullet or a cartridge. He hammers on about the alleged cost and the posible total bill but forgets to mention that most of the cost has nothing to do with badgers and is all down to the farming industry, cattle-to-cattle infection, ineffective testing and buying and selling cattle from disease hotspots. Who picks up the compensation bill? We do, of course, the taxpayers. Latest gem from this man is to say the cull in Ireland has proved to be good for badgers because the ones left have put on weight. Just a minor matter of course of tens of thousands of badgers slaughtered. It wasn't quite so good for them. Let's hope for all our sakes he doesn't take over from Jeremy Hunt.

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  • withrespect1  |  September 24 2013, 8:08PM

    Biosecurity plainly needs to be tighter before you can dismiss it as not working effectively! http://tinyurl.com/nvco7vo AND as there is already a decrease in bTB since new regs earlier this year, http://tinyurl.com/ke4c4y9 imagine how effective it can be alone if they were adhered to everywhere!

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