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Farm shifts from beef to badgers

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Guardian - Wednesday June 21, 2000

A beef farming couple are selling their herd because it has proved more profitable to charge visitors to see a group of badgers living on their land.

Kevin and Anne Atkinson, who have been beef farmers for 10 years, started their badger watching business three years ago in order to diversify away from complete reliance on the crisis hit beef sector.

They spent 12,000 setting up the venture, including a purpose-built hide on a hillside where visitors can see around 10 of the animals in the evenings.

Now it is so successful - and the beef business so bad - that they are selling their 24 cattle and devoting their time and efforts to the badgers.

They are also hoping to diversify further by opening up their 60 acre farm, near Tiverton in Devon, to school parties.

Mrs Atkinson, 43, said: "If we are to stay on the farm we have to produce an income from the land and in the current economic climate beef just doesn't do that any more.

"We had been struggling for years to make any money. It got to the point where we weren't making any money at all despite the subsidies.

"This [badger watching] business is going very well and we are already into profit which we are really pleased about."

Mr Atkinson, 45, said there had been three driving forces behind the decision to set up the badger watching business.

"The first was the need to diversify the farm income away from total reliance on the beef sector which was then severely depressed," he said.

"The second was simply a wish to share the magical experience of wild badger watching with others.

"The third was to offer those who wanted to know more a deeper insight into the complexities of the natural world."

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