FARMERS in Yorkshire have welcomed plans to shoot badgers in west or south west England, claiming it will reduce the risk of bovine TB spreading to the region.
The Government has decided to go ahead with two six-week pilots of badger culls in a bid to try to stem the disease which led to nearly 25,000 cattle being slaughtered in England last year and is set to cost taxpayers £1bn over 10 years. If they are successful, the move could lead to licences being issued for up to 10 culls a year for four years.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said bovine TB was having a “devastating impact” on farmers and rural communities and said the decision to pilot culls was based on science. Vaccines for badgers, which carry the disease, and cattle are still years away, but animal welfare groups are horrified and policing a cull would cost £500,000 a year in each area.
Barney Kay, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “We are fortunate in this part of the world, that the vast majority of the region is relatively unaffected by this terrible disease that last year resulted in 32,000 cattle being slaughtered in affected areas. However we are seeing it march inexorably northwards and that is obviously something we are very concerned about.”
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh, the Wakefield MP, said the move was “bad news for wildlife, bad news for farmers and bad news for the taxpayer”.