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Killing badgers 'not the solution'

9th April 2003 - BBC News

Badgers are blamed by farmers for the spread of bovine TB

A new report insists culling badgers across the UK is not the way to end the problem of tuberculosis in cattle.

A group of MPs concluded there was no justification for an extended cull and blamed farmers for the growing number of cases.

But many farmers remain convinced that badgers are responsible for spreading bovine TB among their cattle.

And they say they cannot wait three or four years for the results of trials which are currently underway.

The trials were set up in 1998 and cover 10 areas across the country - five of them in the South West - as well as locations in Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

The areas are divided into three. In the first, the badgers are culled immediately; in the second, they are killed if there is an outbreak of TB; and in the third zone, the badgers are left alone.

The Commons inquiry was sparked by an announcement last October from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of a package of measures for the control of bovine TB in cattle.

The report, by an all-party committee of MPs, said it understood the concern of farmers.

But MPs said the continuation of the trials was necessary to establish once and for all whether killing badgers had any impact on bovine TB.

They welcomed the fact that controls on the movement of livestock had been tightened in high risk areas, but added "we are surprised that stricter controls were not imposed sooner".

They said farmers should do more to prevent disease by changing the way their animals are looked after.

"We're very pleased with the MPs report," said Dr Elaine King from the National Federation of Badger Groups.

"They've followed the position of the government that badger culling does not appear to work.

"In the meantime, farmers can do more to improve bio-security on their farms; they need to test cattle more frequently and there need to be stricter movement restrictions," she said.

But Ian Johnson of the National Farmers' Union said the report "fudged" the issue.

"The fact remains that farmers could, can, will and should improve bio-security and they are doing that," he said.

"But nevertheless if there is reservoir of infection in the wildlife population then you will continue to have this dreadful disease which is not in anyone's interest, least of all badgers.

"For various reasons, the government doesn't want to get on with vaccination, so this is a very convenient way of the fudging the issue and putting it on the backburner."

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