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Ministers pressed on badger cull

10 January 2005 - BBC News

Thousands of cattle have been slaughtered in Devon and Cornwall Devon and Cornwall farmers' leaders are urging the government to adopt badger culling to control bovine TB.

It follows the results of a study in Ireland which found that removing badgers from four areas reduced the rate herds got tuberculosis by 60-90%.

Last year there were more TB outbreaks in the South West than anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales.

The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) says the Irish Four Area Trial study is flawed.

'Clear results'

In the first 10 months of last year, 827 farms in Devon were under restriction for the disease at some point.

The Irish Four Area Trial involved intensive, proactive badger culling with reference areas where badgers were only removed if there was a severe TB outbreak.

Anthony Gibson, South West regional director of the NFU, said the results meant the government must include proactive badger culling in its TB strategy, due to be published next month.

He said: "The results are clear, comprehensive and conclusive and show that concerted action against the disease in badgers in the worst areas will achieve a very significant reduction of outbreaks of the disease in cattle.

"That is something the government must act on because while culling badgers is not the whole answer, it has got to be part of a holding operation at the moment."

North Devon farmer Tony Yewdall said: "Something has got to be done. It is a very serious problem that is spreading all over the country and costing a lot of money.

"Nobody is saying it is all to do with badgers, but badgers are part of it."

But the NFBG says the study does not show whether the effect is enough to warrant the massive cost of the slaughter.

Chief Executive, Dr Elaine King, said: "Ireland's futile badger slaughter has simply confirmed that badger culling will never be a solution to the problem of bovine TB.

"This makes it vital that Defra focuses all its energies on controlling the movement of infected livestock and removing all infected cattle by implementing the more accurate gamma interferon TB test."

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