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Hilary Benn confirms TB cull rejection

07 July 2008 - BBC News

The government will not issue licences to cull badgers to prevent cattle TB in England, Hilary Benn has confirmed. In a Commons statement, the environment secretary said that while a large-scale cull could improve the situation, it could also make the problem worse.

... Rather than culling, vaccination will form a cornerstone of bovine TB policy, and the government is to invest 20m into research. The government based its decision on advice from the Independent Scientific Group which it established to review research on the issue. The ISG concluded that culling would not be an economic solution to the problem, as did the Environment and Rural Affairs select committee.

... Mr Benn recalled that the UK Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) concluded that proactive culling - attempting to wipe out badgers across large swathes of countryside - reduced disease incidence inside the cull zone, but increased it around the edges of the zone. "I have decided that while such a cull might work, it might also not work," he said. "It could end up making the disease worse if it was not sustained over time or delivered effectively."

... Some landowners would be reluctant to allow culling on their land, he acknowledged, making effective delivery of the strategy less likely. The RBCT concluded that reactive culling - killing badgers in the area around an outbreak that had already been identified - made things worse.

... "It may not be what people would assume would be the answer to the question, but it is the answer to the question," Mr Benn said.

... Badger Trust spokesman Trevor Lawson suggested that farmers' groups should now work constructively with the partnership. "This overwhelming body of sound scientific opinion means that the farming industry can move forwards with the government in tackling bovine TB with improved cattle testing and biosecurity," he said. "We are confident that with proper investment, the government will be able to rapidly reverse the bovine TB problem, bringing relief to farmers and their families."

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