Minister plans pilot badger cull
8 April 2008 - BBC News
A "targeted cull" of badgers has been announced as part of a plan in Wales to
eradicate tuberculosis in cattle. The location of the area and details of the
cull have yet to be decided. The Welsh Assembly Government's plan includes a
one-off test of all cattle and a review of the compensation system, rural
affairs minister Elin Jones announced. Wales' chief veterinary officer said
bovine TB was out of control and the current policy was not working. In a
briefing on Tuesday, Christianne Glossop said incidents had increased
dramatically over the last decade.
Announcing her decision to AMs in Cardiff Bay, Ms Jones said: "This is a
difficult decision to take and it has not been taken lightly. I am very aware of
the strong views on this issue." Ms Jones said she had given "due consideration
to the divergence of scientific and political opinion" on the matter. "I want to
make it absolutely clear that the badger remains a protected species in Wales
and the conditions of the Badger Act are firmly in force. Illegal action will
not be tolerated," she said. The test zone would need to be in an area with hard
natural or manmade boundaries, she added.
Ms Jones also said there would be a one-off test of all cattle herds in Wales
to assess the extent of infection. It means testing about an extra 4,657 animals
or 35% of herds in Wales. She said she wanted to reform the compensation regime
for farmers whose infected cows were slaughtered to "encourage herd owners to
comply with legal and best practice requirements".
Last year 7,905 cattle were slaughtered in Wales, up from 669 in 1997.
Compensation payments to farmers have risen from £1.3m in 1999-2000 to £15.2m in
2007-2008. Ms Jones said it would cost more than £30m by 2012 if it grew at the
present "unsustainable" rate.
There has been limited badger culling before but it will be the first time in
Britain that such a wide-scale measure - within a defined area - has been used
to control the disease. Under the current policy cattle are slaughtered if they
fail routine tests, with farmers who lose cows compensated.
Many farmers say badgers are to blame for infecting their herds and want a
widespread cull. NFU Cymru and the Farmers' Union of Wales have welcomed the
plans unveiled by Ms Jones to take a proactive approach to controlling bovine TB
But conservationists have urged the Welsh Assembly Government to reject the
proposal, saying badgers are being wrongly victimised for an illness brought on
by modern, intensive farming. Trevor Lawson for Badger Trust Cymru said the
assembly government had "cherry-picked the scientific evidence which suits the
powerful farming lobby in Wales. It is hard to imagine a more naive and
short-sighted political decision than killing badgers," he added. "It is a
tragic day for Welsh wildlife that will have negative repercussions in the rural
economy for years to come."
There was badger gassing from 1975, after a bovine TB outbreak in Dorset,
until 1982, when badgers became a protected species. There was some trapping and
shooting in the 1980s, until trials were held over the last 10 years to look at
the evidence for the likely effect of culling.
The coalition deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly
Government has led to a commitment to attempt to eradicate TB in cattle, with
£27m being allocated over the next three years for this purpose.
Conservative rural affairs spokesman Brynle Williams AM said the announcement
would be welcomed by farmers. "Clearly there will be opposition from wildlife
groups to these proposals," he said. "However, this decision comes after a
lengthy, comprehensive inquiry by the assembly rural affairs committee."
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