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Minister tries to quell concern at cull delay

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 24, 2014

UNDER THREAT: Cattle near Chulmleigh face more restrictions in the fight against TB.   Picture: Richard Howe

UNDER THREAT: Cattle near Chulmleigh face more restrictions in the fight against TB. Picture: Richard Howe

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FARMING minister George Eustice has confirmed North Devon is a high priority for a badger cull but only if, among other things, there are enough marksmen armed with proper nightsights.

And he's stressed to the Journal thatthe decision not to extend the culls this year beyond Somerset and Gloucester was not politically driven.

It follows deep disappointment among farmers after the Government announced it wouldn't extend the cull this year.

Some farmers who'd met Mr Eustice at Bishops Nympton a week before the announcement believed he was telling them to prepare for a cull in North Devon and they were surprised at the turnaround.

Now Mr Eustice has told the Journal he felt he'd made it clear to NFU members in the area that the Government still hadn't made up its mind at the time he'd visited North Devon.

"I don't accept it was a political decision because we are continuing the Somerset and Gloucester culls running through to October or November. We've not abandoned the cull of badgers, just delayed the rollout."

He went on to say this area was one of two hotspots the Government has been giving special attention in the fight to halt bovine TB. "Given the report (of an independent expert panel) we have to concentrate on getting the methodology right.

"The ambition to roll out the cull in hotspot areas is still there, it's still very much our view that a cull in the hotspots has to be part of a coherent strategy.

"We have to get enough marksmen in the field and make sure they're using the right equipment, particularly the right night-viewing equipment. In some cases they didn't have that." He said the Government was against lifting legal protection for badgers, which many farmers believes is the best way to control the spread of TB in cattle.

"I know some farmers think we should temporarily lift the protection. But if you're going to get the benefit of the badger cull you've got to have a coherent strategy. It would be counter-productive to tell farmers to get on with it themselves, would increase perturbation among badgers, and not be successful."

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4 comments

  • dandypeople  |  April 26 2014, 1:15PM

    Time to stop wasting money shooting badgers, with or without night sights, which if it has any effect on btb rates will be minimal and start putting the money into research for a better more reliable skin test. The skin test was developed as a herd test not an individual animal test. It was designed to spot infected herds with a view to slaughtering the entire herd. This obviously makes no economic sense so now they use it as an individual animal test which is at best 80% accurate. These leaves 20%, 1/5 of infection remaining, for every 5 cattle 1 could still be infected after passing a test. This figure is unacceptably high and is allowing infected animals to be traded around the country. Carcasses checked at slaughterhouses for disease is uncovering more and more cows that were supposedly clear of infection and were not. This figure is rising each year, up some 30% on 5 years ago. The skin test is failing cows, farmers and badgers. If it were more effective then btb levels in cows would drop drastically, which in turn would drop infection levels in our wildlife. Wales has put the whole country on annual testing and 6 monthly testing in the intensive action area (high risk area), we should do the same and increase the use of gamma interferon testing to clear herds of infection when a reactor is found.

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  • groundnut  |  April 24 2014, 4:38PM

    Start looking around you George Eustice, the facts are stacking up against the DEFRA /NFU strategy to carry on Culling. You have so far spent Millions of Taxpayers money on what the Independent Panel of Experts have told you was an "ineffective and Inhumane Cull" The BVA have indicated that they would not support any further such levels of Inhumaneness. No evidence has been produced on BTB infection levels for the 1800 Badgers killed or for the aprox. 180 subject to Post Mortem. I understand that of some 29 road kill badgers post mortemed recently by Liverpool University ,only one tested positive for BTB. In Wales with two years of a science based humane programme in operation some 2450 Badgers were Vaccinated and NONE showed any visible signs of BTB. And yet Cattle re stocking movements after Foot & mouth saw a very significant increase in BOVINE TB levels all round. There is a major obstacle to the eradication of BOVINE TB, and that is the current ineffective Cattle test. Only some 80% effective and the politics preventing Cattle Vaccination. Until competent Science replaces Politics, then further time and money will be wasted. The Minister for Natural resources in Wales earlier this year referred to the "breathtaking incompetence of DEFRA" And now we have one of its Ministers suggesting a need to re-equip with gun night sights. (Hopefully at the Farmers expense) as the same people involved last year Owen Paterson, DEFRA, Natural England and the NFU. Continue to ignore the available evidence and Science to Fight an infectious disease of Bovines. By killing Badgers 95% or more of which are Healthy. http://tinyurl.com/po6cwzd

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  • stormkettle  |  April 24 2014, 12:49PM

    Time to ditch badger-killing. Something is very wrong with Defra and the NFU

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  • Clued-Up  |  April 24 2014, 10:19AM

    It would be better for everyone if DEFRA ministers and the NFU leadership now have the guts to admit their badger cull is dead and can't and won't be resurrected. The Welsh Assembly has already shown DEFRA and the NFU how to stop cattle bTB in its tracks - tighter cattle controls than in England, rigorously enforced, plus on-farm advice and assistance with improving bio-security has reduced the number of Welsh cattle slaughtered because of bTB by 48% in 4 years ... all without killing a single badger. By contrast, DEFRA and the NFU have defied the public (80% opposed to the badger cull) by railroading through their squalid vendetta against Britain's second favourite wild animal. The IEP report shows they're responsible for government-licenced cruelty to animals. Together DEFRA and the NFU have wasted £millions of tax-payers' money on a project the public detest and the scientists told them was pointless.

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