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Badger culling to resume

30th April, 2002 - BBC News

A controversial cull of badgers - which was suspended during the foot-and-mouth crisis - is to start again on Wednesday.

Up to 10,000 badgers are being killed as part of a five-year government programme to try to establish whether they spread tuberculosis in cattle.

Animal health minister Elliot Morley described Bovine TB as a "serious and growing" animal health problem which was damaging affected farms.

Culling was halted when foot-and-mouth struck last year, creating a backlog of work.

"I know many farmers have been pressing for the resumption of large-scale culling and we sympathise with the serious effects and restrictions TB can have on farmers," Mr Morley told a London press conference.

"The fact is however, there are crucial scientific questions that need to be answered and the previous culling programme could hardly be described as an unqualified success.

"I am very encouraged that the trial remains on course to provide robust scientific results, despite the disruption caused by foot-and-mouth disease."

He added: "In the longer term, we hope that the information the trial provides will contribute to the development of a strategy for the control of Bovine TB which will allow cattle and badgers to co-exist."

The culling forms part of a larger government strategy to control Bovine TB.

It includes research into how the disease is transmitted, testing of affected cattle, and research into vaccine development.

"We did our first analysis 12 months ago," Professor John Bourne, chairman of the Independent Scientific Group on Bovine TB, said.

"We will do our second analysis in the very near future. We indicated to ministers that we expect results by the end of 2004/5.

"Foot-and-mouth will have delayed that period, but we suspect by only three months ... before that time there are other parts of the research which will deliver, and be informative and could be expected to influence policy before the end of 2004/5.

But he warned that there was "no magic bullet, no single answer" to controlling TB.

"A lot of faith is being put in vaccines but we are not yet near getting a vaccine," he said.

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