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Defra cannot let farmers down over badger cull, says NBA
26/06/06

Defra's promised prompt response to the March consultation on culling badgers to reduce TB damage to both the national economy and the English cattle herd is long overdue.

badger

So says the National Beef Association which is fearful that hard won focus on increasing TB cost, and the long term implications of further inaction against the relentless spread of the disease, is being dissipated as a result of almost four months suspension in what had been an extremely active national debate.

“Cattle farmers have been patiently waiting for a Defra decision on widespread, and intensive, badger culling in England which they see as essential to the stifling, and then elimination, of this badly managed epidemic,” explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell .

“However because discussion has gone underground since the consultation period ended in early March they are worried that powerful public arguments in favour of the immediate adoption of a large scale badger cull in TB hot spot areas have been superceded by hidden manoeuvering in favour of a cattle-only response to curbing further TB spread.”

And the NBA has no doubt that Defra will jeopardise its relationship with cattle farmers if it reneges on earlier promises to introduce an intense and widespread badger cull as part of a three pronged package that includes pre-movement TB testing and tabular valuation for TB reactors which have already been introduced.

“Defra is already treading on glass and will cut its feet badly if it lets farmers down over the introduction of badger controls and takes the easy way out by deciding that an attack through cattle to cattle transmission will be the only prevention route,” said Mr Burrell.

“Farmers have made it clear that they will commit themselves to a long term plan to remove badgers from badly infected TB areas and scientists agree that if the cull is effective, and badgers are culled in sufficient numbers, there will be positive TB reduction results,”

“If Defra backpedals now it not only risks losing essential farmer cooperation for further adoption of its Animal Health and Welfare Strategy plan but also jeopardises the success of future partnership schemes aimed at cost reduction and management effectiveness in the disease control arena.”

“On top of this there will not be another chance, perhaps for a decade, to re-focus minds on the TB and badger issue and for strategists to properly take the temperature on important TB issues.”

“Among these is the virtual inevitability of tax payers being faced with a control and compensation bill of at least £2 billion over the next ten years if TB spread problems caused by badgers are not curbed or eliminated.”

“And then there is the nightmare possibility that TB will not only swamp those areas of the UK that are currently free of the disease but also attract the attention of the European Commission which might decide to introduce new measures to protect other cattle herds elsewhere in the Community.”

“All of this means that the arguments in favour of an effective badger cull are overwhelming. This is Defra's last chance to tackle the TB badger problem and it must not blow it,” Mr Burrell added.

link NFU "mired in confusion" over bovine TB
link NFU badger culling demand "laughable" say conservationists
link How we beat bovine TB before: Badger Trust
link More top scientists reject badger culling to control bovine TB

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