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George Eustice: Badger cull is vital – sitting back is not an option to eliminate TB in cattle

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 27, 2014

Comments (12)

Natural England has confirmed that the second year of the targeted badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset will go ahead.

They are a vital element of our approach to beating bovine TB which is having a devastating effect on cattle and dairy farmers and local communities across the region. Bovine TB is the biggest animal health problem facing the UK. In counties such as Somerset and Gloucestershire, which have a proud history of beef and dairy farming, the impact of this disease on these industries is plain to see. Last year, 400 farms in Somerset were under the grip of this terrible disease and 2,629 cattle had to be slaughtered.

Sitting back and letting this situation continue is simply not an option. That is why the government is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to rid England of bovine TB. To achieve this, we have been tightening cattle movement controls to stop the spread from herd to herd, helping farmers stop disease spreading on their farm, and spending millions of pounds developing a vaccine for cattle.

Through these measures we are beginning to slow the spread of TB, but we know that if we are to beat the disease in hot spot areas such as Somerset we also need to deal with infection in badgers.

Bovine TB can infect wildlife as well as cattle, and in this part of the country studies have shown that up to half of all new cases are due to badgers. I know that many people advocate the use of vaccination to deal with this problem. Vaccinating healthy badgers could play an important role in preventing the spread of disease to new areas of the country, and we will shortly be announcing details of a new vaccination scheme to help create a buffer zone to stop bovine TB spreading further. However vaccination cannot cure sick badgers, who will continue to spread disease, which is why it cannot replace culling in areas such as Somerset where TB is rife.

Targeted culling has to be part of our approach if we want to control this disease. This view is shared by the nation's leading vets, and supported by a wealth of experience from overseas. Many other countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Ireland have been successful in dramatically reducing the impact of bovine TB by culling wildlife that carries the disease.

We have made improvements to the culls this year because it is vital that we get this right. The operators have undergone increased training to improve the humaneness and effectiveness of the cull, and there will be monitoring in place to assess progress.

The timing for the start of the six-week culls will now be decided by the two licensed companies. By combining all of the tools we have available to tackle bovine TB, we should see the same success as other countries and we can finally rid our prized farms, countryside and wildlife of this dreadful disease.

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  • oldlongdog  |  August 30 2014, 1:15PM

    Just so we are all clear, mmjames is paid by the NFU/CA/tory party to comment on these threads. He has never denied this and writes on numerous other forums under various different names. It is his aim to spread disinformation about the badger cull in the hope of persuading the unwary that the government 'may' have a case in pursuing this wholly discredited policy. He dismisses the real science as 'pseudo-science' because he (and they) have something to hide - the truth. You know when a government is doing something wrong by all the lies and propaganda myths they need to employ to get their own way. All the figures I have quoted are from government sources (Defra) or government funded research (RBCT etc.) The truth is the badger cull is a political act by a government desperate to shore up it's last remaining core vote before it is annihilated at the next election. They are simply protecting the benefits culture (public subsidies) that the farming industry has become so used to and even feels entitled to. bTB is already well under control but the government and countryside 'killers and scroungers' don't want the public to know that because they want to keep taking the subsidies and keep on killing (because they enjoy it). The farmers are indeed 'on their own'. This cull has been the stupidest thing they have ever done in terms of turning the public away from them. It is bound to affect sales and any future willingness on the part of taxpayers to go on pouring public money down their throats. We know when we are being lied to and the British public will never sanction the needless killing of animals. The government did indeed sign up to a statute to deal with bTB but that did not specify culling as an appropriate measure. If the government proposed standing on one leg and whistling Dixie as a measure that would not justify it under the statute and nor does culling. It specifically mentions farm and cattle controls and culling is 'the wrong tool' in the government's box. Whole herd culling is the right tool but it's a brutal measure. It will work because it did in NZ. It was this and not the pointless slaughter of Brushtail Possums that produced results there. But mmjames and his paymasters won't accept this. They say it's not fair to kill cows that don't have bTB yet that is exactly what they want for badgers. But culling wildlife has never worked, it is simply part of a pseudo-Darwinian thought process marooned in 19th century thinking that postulates killing and destroying things is 'the only way' to solve life's problems. It is grossly narcissistic and self deluded. We have moved on now, we are more sophisticated. 20th/21st century science and practical experience have clearly demonstrated that vaccination and other bio-security measures are far more effective. So that leaves us with the question I have been asking mmjames for months but which he has never even attempted to answer - why do he and his supporters want to kill all the badgers? The answer is because little-minded people need to compensate for their innate lack of power or charisma by killing things. It makes them feel better, 'omnipotent'. It makes them feel 'important'. All very sad and pathetic. The rest of us now have to watch round two of this act of foot-stamping petulance from a one of the most uneducated, unpleasant groups within our society.

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  • mmjames  |  August 30 2014, 11:44AM

    Belatedly farmers are realising they are on their own despite the UK government being signed up to an OIE Statute to deal with zTuberculosis. Well done those farmers that are making such a difference already. More farmers4action would blow the pseudo-science out of the window.

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  • oldlongdog  |  August 29 2014, 2:13PM

    Let's just go through this tripe and reveal the truth behind the propaganda lies and myths: 1) Defra figures released 13/08/14 show bTB in cattle is currently at a 14 YEAR LOW, having decreased steadily for the last four years whilst Defra/NFU/CA/tories try to tell us it is increasing. Env. Minister Liz Truss used the term 'spreading' in a recent letter to GCC to cover this rather obvious lie. However, if it is spreading it isn't down to badgers as they are fiercely territorial and don't travel far (except when being shot at) so it can only be down to cattle and/or farmers with guns. 2) bTB is "the biggest animal health problem facing the UK." WRONG, it's not even close. It's 9th on a 2008 Defra list of cattle mortality with bTB accounting for less than 5% of deaths on UK farms. More than 7 times more cows die from lameness and mastitis than bTB. And bTB rates are now lower than 2008. 3) "Doing nothing is not an option". Another disingenuous propaganda trope as no-one is suggesting 'doing nothing'. What is being suggested is that they stop doing things that don't work (culling) and concentrate on things that do (cattle controls, proper testing and vaccinating badgers if they feel that helps). 4) "Vaccinating badgers doesn't cure diseased badgers" - of course not and no-one claims that it does. Nor does killing badgers that don't have TB (which is what the cullers propose) nor cows with bTB, nor prevent them from getting it, either. Vaccination is a prophylactic measure that takes effect over a short number of years. Diseased badgers either die or become naturally immune. Vaccination builds up group immunity and so long as you don't start shooting them they stay put. Culling badgers, at best, takes 9 years to produce a measly 16% drop in cattle infection rates. But done badly (as in the current cull) it will make things worse. Vaccinating badgers is safer, faster, more effective and cheaper. "Targeted culling" would make some sense but that means testing badgers for bTB, which would reveal just how few of them have it. But they are not proposing that, just to kill every badger they can. In last years cull all badgers culled were DNA tested but not tested for bTB - I wonder why? 5) "Half of all new cases are due to badgers." That is a blatant lie. There is no scientific evidence for this, it's a false assertion based on an assumption that if a badger infects one cow and that cow infects ten more cows, and then those ten infect ten more each, then all of those cases are down to 'badgers'. Utter rubbish and so typical of the desperation and mendacity of the pro-cull propaganda machine. 6) "It's worked elsewhere" (the 'no other country…' lie). No country that has ever tried to cull wildlife to control bTB has done so in the absence of strict cattle controls so the effect of culling cannot be separated from the results. No country has tried to cull wildlife only but several countries have implemented cattle controls only and succeeded - the UK in the 1950s/60s and now Wales and NI. And in Ireland, despite wiping out 80% of badgers bTB is on the increase again. Culling does not work - you were told this 15 years ago (RCBT et al) and all the available new evidence proves it. 7) We have to "use all the tools in the box." Really? Would you use a saw to hammer in a nail? That's what culling badgers is - the wrong tool for the job. However, whole herd culling is the tool they used in NZ to control TB in cattle but, surprise, surprise - UK farmers think it's not ok to kill cows without TB - but it is ok to kill badgers without TB. Just face it and move on; you want to kill badgers because you want to kill everything that moves. It has nothing to do with TB. You have been 'outed', we all know it except you - because you don't want to know. Childish, pathetic, hypocritical people that you are.

  • oldlongdog  |  August 29 2014, 2:11PM

    Why are we still being told this cull is necessary when, according to Defra figures, bTB is at a 14 year Low?

  • stormkettle  |  August 28 2014, 12:33AM

    Vast majority of badgers likely to be healthy until thay are shot by NFU shooters. A bad farming system

  • Clued-Up  |  August 27 2014, 5:39PM

    Belatedly, reluctantly the government has started to introduce some of the cattle measures which will stop cattle bTB - it took them long enough to do so! They're still failing farmers and taxpayers by refusing to introduce cattle bTB annual testing for all parts of England; by being so laggardly on introducing cattle vaccination; and by being too frit to tackle the 10% cattle bTB "super spreader" farms. George Eustice should know it's useless for him to carry on pretending that the NFU / DEFRA vendetta against badgers has anything to do with controlling cattle bTB. The public don't believe him or the NFU. They believe the scientists. All the independent scientists say controlling cattle bTB can only be done through cattle measures and badgers contribute almost nothing to the UK's cattle bTB disease problem.

  • Free2opine  |  August 27 2014, 11:28AM

    A lingering death!? How long are we talking about seconds, minutes hours!? How about those badgers suffering a long slow lingering death when dying from bTB. ........weeks, months!? Have you seen an animal dying from the effects of bTB I wonder!! No probably not. Believe me it is pitiful. It is bad enough seeing a human being, who has been unfortunate enough to get bTB from an infected animal............and who has all the medications to try and cure them and make their days of sickness less unbearable. Mammals have no such luxuries.

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  • Stokie2013  |  August 27 2014, 11:15AM

    Despite all reputable scientific evidence the Government and NFU seem determined to push ahead with this discredited policy. You would think a dairy industry under increasing risk of collapse due to a milk glut resulting I plummeting prices would be less keen to alienate its customer base. You would also think an unelected minority government would be less keen to alienate the electorate with May 2015 looming! Please don't feel any sympathy for either group when the public show what they think of them - save your sympathy for the innocent badgers facing a lingering death as a sacrifice to the ignorant policies of George and his Defra colleagues :-(

  • Free2opine  |  August 27 2014, 11:04AM

    Mind you, I suspect the local news rags wouldn't like it much, as their comments sections would barely get a look in. The ARA's must be their saving grace!!!!!

  • Free2opine  |  August 27 2014, 11:01AM

    Hear, hear!!! They couldn't keep complaining about the costs for policing, or complaining about biased police, or shots taken across footpaths, or cull personnel attacking them on private land, or protected animals being shot LEGALLY or any other nonsense.