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Badger cull consultation 'flawed'

14 March 2006 - BBC News

The government's consultation on badger culling was flawed because a number of the possible options were based on unsound science, MPs have said. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said evidence from scientists showed only extensive culling would cut TB levels in cattle. Yet ministers also asked for opinions on issuing individual licences, and limited controls on badger numbers. Many farmers blame badgers for a sharp increase of TB in their herds.

The committee said the consultation document failed to take account of the findings of the government's Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), lead by Professor John Bourne.

In December, Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw launched a consultation on three possible culling options:

  • individual licensing
  • a targeted cull over specific areas
  • a general cull over larger areas of high TB incidence

Figures published at the time by Defra showed that more than 22,500 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered in 2004, because of the disease, at a cost to taxpayers of 90.5m.

Michael Jack, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: "Two of the three questions asked were, in light of the opinion of Prof John Bourne and the committee of independent scientists, not viable. Prof Bourne found that if you were going to have any kind of culling it would have to be very intense, over a long period of time and over a very large area. If Mr Bradshaw has had some other advice from within his department which convinces him that he can go ahead with an option that has been rejected by the ISG, we say he should publish it," he told the BBC News website.

The consultation period ended last week and ministers are now considering whether badger culling, along with other measures, is needed to control the spread of bovine TB.

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