A senior figure in the NFU in North Devon is calling for the right to carry out a reactive badger cull if bovine TB breaks out among cattle in closed herds and good bio-security.
Chairman of the North Devon branch,David Verney, is one of many who believe farmers themselves would be able to gas badgers where there appears to be no other means by which cattle have been infected.
He told the Journal: “There should be a reactive cull if a farmer went down with TB in spite of good bio-security and where they’ve not brought animals in.
“I can take you to farms where they’ve got a closed herd but still have gone down.
“There should be a clause allowing us to gas badgers in that situation. It would do a better job, we could do it in the day and not be forced to do it at night.”
His comments came as Agriculture Secretary, Owen Paterson, told the House of Commons that research is going on into gassing as a means of badger control.
At the same time farmers are seeking to extend the period for culling badgers in Somerset.
Mr Verney said: “The chaps up in Somerset are exhausted (including farmers).
“In some cases farmers have been involved trying to monitor the cull.
“Most of the contractors have to have people with them and I wouldn’t be happy if I had a contractor going all over my farm at night.
“There’s also been rent-a-mob - a lot of people trying to spoil it, and that’s been challenging.
“If it was spread out over a wider area then rent-a-mob would find it more difficult. “And if it was a reactive cull they wouldn’t know where the cull was taking place.
“But nobody’s listening at the top, including the NFU.”
He said it was time Defra released information about how the culls are progressing in Somerset and Gloucester.
“The farmers have got to be informed what’s going on because it’s their livelihood that’s being messed about with.
“Something has to change pretty quickly.
“We would like to push on in Devon and sort the problem of bovine TB out.
“But unless they tell us what’s happening (with the cull) we’ve nothing to go on.
“I think we’ve got to be a lot stronger. At the top (of the union) we’ve not been strong enough. What we’ve been handed we should not have taken.
“What we’ve got is bureaucratic and expensive and we shouldn’t have taken it.”
He said that farmers can’t afford the current kind of badger-shooting operation across the rest of the country:
“The NFU can’t afford to do what’s going on in Gloucester and Somerset any more. It’s too expensive.”
Many farmers have questioned the latest statistics about the pilot cull and Mr Verney is among them: “I don’t know how they could have numbered the badgers in the first place.
“Last year they stopped the cull going ahead because they’d counted more badgers than they thought.
“They messed us about there, and it’s very difficult to evaluate the numbers in the first place. It’s not an exact science and I don’t know how many they’ve successfully culled.”