A beef farmer claims he will be forced to give up farming cattle because the pilot cull of badgers where he farms has been postponed.
David Barton, 45, said yesterday it was “outrageous” that TB in cattle would not be tackled now, and that the plan to trap and shoot badgers had been shelved by the Government after years of indecision.
On Tuesday, the Government announced that a trial cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset to assess the impact of badgers passing TB to cattle would be delayed.
Mr Barton, who runs Manor Farm in Middle Duntisbourne, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, said 44 of his cattle had been slaughtered since February, after testing positive for TB.
The beef farmer now claims there is “no point” in restocking his herd and will have to give up, a prospect that makes him “incredibly sad”.
He said: “There’s no point in me restocking because of the level of infection in wildlife we have in and around the farm, so I’ll most likely have to give up farming cattle. Had the pilot culls gone ahead and been successful, and we could have seen that it could be rolled out, it would have given us some hope that we can get on top of this disease, but to leave it is an outrage.”
Jan Rowe, a Cotswolds dairy farmer who is TB spokesman for the National Farmers Union, said the decision to postpone the cull was “utter devastation”.
He said: “I certainly hope it does go ahead next year because we desperately need to get control over the disease in badgers.”
The Government has delayed the six-week trial until next year after realising there are twice as many badgers in the culling zones as previously thought.
This makes it difficult for farmers to kill enough animals in time to affect cattle TB rates. Mr Rowe added: “This underlines the huge number of badgers that are out there and the problems we are facing.
“This is a diseased badger community and until we start dealing with that disease in the badger population we’re going to get nowhere in cattle. I’m pretty sure the cull will go ahead. It’s obviously very challenging but farmers are desperate to get on with this.
“We know vaccines are a potential tool in the future but they’re still six or seven years away before they can be rolled out to have any effect on TB.”
Anti-cull campaigners have welcomed the decision to postpone the cull but the delay is a “hollow victory” for Pauline Kidner, the prominent campaigner who is also founder of Somerset’s Secret World rescue charity.
Yesterday she said: “We are fighting against the cull because we know it will make things worse, and it’s not worth it. It is not about the badger being a fluffy black-and-white animal.”