The Badger Trust today warned farmers that the National Farmers
Union is "mired in confusion" over the bovine tuberculosis
issue and cannot be trusted to offer a rational approach to managing
The assertion follows the NFU's latest statement on bovine TB
control, in which it states that:
"a cull should be targeted towards infected populations of
badgers living in areas in which bovine TB is considered to be
endemic within the species. This means that ‘hotspot’ areas
in parts of the South West, for example, should be targeted for
Trevor Lawson, spokesman for the Badger Trust, commented:
"The NFU is clearly mired in confusion over bovine TB and
its demands are becoming increasingly irrational.
"Only two weeks ago, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond
called for a cull 'which should be targeted as closely as possible
at badger social groups known to be infected'. Now, the NFU
admits that there are no reliable tools for detecting infection
in badger social groups.
Instead, it proposes the extermination of badgers across entire
hotspots. The land within 2.5km of infected farms totals between
19,650 km2 – 25,200 km2 in England alone. No one in their
right mind could think that such a strategy could be implemented.
It would not be cost effective, it would be impossible to deliver
and, judging from the 47,000 responses to the Government's culling
consultation, tax payers would not be prepared to fund it.
"What is consistent in both statements from the NFU is their
complete incoherence. Mr Raymond said that 'the precise details
of any cull, and operational leadership, should be a matter for
the Defra'. The latest statement says that 'different situations
and areas would call for different approaches'. The NFU demands
that 'something must be done', but it clearly hasn't the faintest
idea what it should be.
"The NFU claims that its response to the Government's consultation
contains more information. That response states: 'some areas may
lend themselves to what is currently classified as a targeted cull
and others to a general cull, depending on the size, disease status
of herds, farming types and geographical features will all affect
how an area is treated'. It is astonishingly vague and no better
than a policy sketched out on the back of an envelope. The NFU
does not explain the difference between 'targeted' and 'general'
culls and nor does it offer a shred of scientific evidence to justify
any particular culling policy for a single given set of circumstances.
"However, the NFU's latest statement contains one sensible
'badger secretion (in faeces) of the Mycobacterium bovis bacillus
(the organism that causes the disease in cattle and badgers) is
low, and the organism may not be present in a soil or faeces sample
which is tested'. This contrasts with the NFU's current 'facts'
leaflet, which blames badger faeces as one route of transmission
from badgers to cattle."
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