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Farmer gasses badgers to stop TB

5 July 2005 - BBC News

A West Country farmer is using his tractor to gas badgers he suspects are carrying bovine TB.

Brian Hill from west Devon says he has been carrying out targeted gassing with the exhaust for the past six years.

Mr Hill claims his actions are legal, he says his farm has been cleared of TB, his approach is humane and if done nationwide, would save millions.

Badger groups claim bovine TB is spread by cattle movements and not badgers and his actions are unscientific.

I am just trying to get back to a healthy countryside Brian Hill

Farmer Brian Hill said he had been carrying out targeted gassing of badger setts he suspected were contaminated with bovine TB since 1999.

He said: "There are still badgers on my farm, it is not indiscriminate killing.

"I am just trying to get back to a healthy countryside."

Since 1973 farmers have been banned from killing badgers except under licence, but the National Farmers' Union (NFU) proposed a series of measures to control TB on Monday, including targeted gassing.

Mr Hill said that as a result of culling, his farm had been clear of bovine TB since 1999.

He said: "What I am doing will be as popular as a kick in the head for wildlife campaigners, but they have got to see the other side of the argument."

Mr Hill said he identified "sick setts" by an increase in dead badgers.

He said: "I have never advocated killing all badgers. All I have wanted to do is tackle the problem at source.

"The only difference between me and wildlife campaigners is that I want to manage nature and they want to let it run its course."

Mr Hill claims culling would save the government having to pay farmers compensation for TB-infected cattle.

It is a cynical ploy to shift attention away from cattle movements as the spread of TB Dr Elaine King

It cost the UK 60m to test cattle and compensate farmers last year, according to the BBC's Mark Holdstock.

The National Federation of Badger Groups said that badgers did not suffer from bovine TB and more were killed on the road than by TB.

Chief executive Dr Elaine King said: "It is not humane, it is illegal and it has already proved to be not effective when farmers were gassing badgers before 1973.

"It is a cynical ploy to shift attention away from cattle movements as the spread of TB."

The NFU said on Monday that the government cannot afford to wait for the result of trials into the role of badgers in the spread of bovine TB.

The number of cases of bovine TB is rising by 18% a year, with more than 22,000 infected cattle culled last year, according to Exeter University.

Last month, a three-year trial testing the effectiveness of TB vaccines for badgers was announced.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that anyone known to be killing badgers would be referred to the police.

The maximum penalty is a six-month jail sentence.

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