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Welsh badger cull go-ahead aimed at cutting cattle TB

13 Jan 2010 - BBC News

The Welsh Assembly Government has given the final go-ahead for a controversial cull of badgers in an attempt to combat bovine TB infections. The cull, along with more frequent testing, will take place in a pilot area, mainly in Pembrokeshire. The move has faced bitter opposition from some animal welfare campaigners, including the Badger Trust which is seeking legal action over the move.

Making the announcement, Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones (elin.jones@wales.gov.uk) said: "Bovine TB is out of control and unsustainable and last year cost the taxpayer nearly £24m in compensating farmers. We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species. The approach we will be taking in the pilot area, carrying out a badger cull alongside strict cattle controls, has not been tried before in the UK. However, it is proving successful in countries like New Zealand, where wild possums and cattle are the main sources of infection."

The cull area covers 288km≤ (111 sq-mile) of north Pembrokeshire, and a small part of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. The assembly government said these areas had "endemic" TB infections, with 42% of cattle owners having at least one case of the disease in their herd since 2003. It added that while only 700 cattle were destroyed because of TB in 1997, this had increased by 12,000 cases in 2008.

The WAG also said that alongside the badger culling, there would be stricter cattle control measures in the cull area. It also said that there would be a wide scale evaluation of the impact in the area, with post-mortem examinations of badgers, and detailed investigation of every cattle TB incident.

However, the Badger Trust announced in December that they were launching an application for a judicial review against any possible cull. Responding to Wednesday's announcement, a Badger Trust spokesperson added: "We rather hoped they would hold on until the legal thing was resolved, but I must stress they don't have to. We stand on science - whether in fact, and how far, badgers are implicated in the transmission of bovine TB and whether the eradication of the badger population would significantly contribute to the eradication of bovine TB. And we say that has not yet been proved, and quite the contrary."

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