TB scams prompt call to halt badger cull

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BADGER cull opponents have been circulating details of a Welsh court case which added to the evidence that some farmers are fiddling the TB control system.

The case involved a Welsh farmer who pleaded guilty to six charges under the Fraud Act, Cattle Identification Regulations and Tuberculosis Regulations, and had 21 more admitted offences taken into account.

One of the offences outlined in court involved swapping ear tags so he got compensation for a valuable TB-positive cow but actually kept her and had a lookalike slaughtered. Two other animals sent for slaughter turned out not to be the animals described in their “passports” when DNA tests were compared with those of their recorded offspring.

In April, it was revealed that Gloucestershire Trading Standards was investigating allegations of similar trickery. Its findings prompted Defra to admit it had “emerging evidence” of scams in Cornwall, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire too.

The latest case involved a farmer in Powys, mid-Wales. At Mold Crown Court nine days ago, he was sentenced to 12 months’ prison – sus-pended for 18 months – and ordered to pay £28,900 costs.

The Badger Trust said the geographical spread of the suspected frauds raised questions about how far farmers were to blame for their own problems with TB.

It called for “all plans to kill badgers to be abandoned until the cattle industry and Defra have cleared up serious doubts about the scale of such crimes”.

It said: “Claims by agriculture industry organisations that only ‘some’ farmers are involved are clearly optimistic with five counties in the Midlands and the South West of England and now Powys implicated.

“Defra’s sudden, massive and expensive response” (which involved ordering DNA testing to check on cattle identities) “suggests these crimes are widespread rather than local”.

Defra and Gloucestershire County Council both said this week that investigations were still continuing.

Defra will have to take on the Badger Trust in court if it proposes a cull.