Badger Cull extended to Cumbria

By Sandy Kitching of The Westmoreland Gazette.

BADGER culling has been extended into Cumbria to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle – a move which the farmers’ union welcomes as part of a combinations of measures.The government included the county as one of the new areas to get the go head for culling badgers, saying there is a “pocket of infection” in Cumbria, which is otherwise at low risk of the disease.

Culling is now taking place in 32 areas across 10 counties – Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Cumbria.

It comes as data published by the Government shows the rate of TB in cattle has halved in the first two cull areas since the programme began.

Farming minister George Eustice said: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK.”

Carl Hudspith, of the NFU North West reiterated that Cumbria is a” low risk area”and he said the union supports the cull, but as part of a “package of measures to prevent the spread of bovine TB.”

Reacting to the TB eradication strategy update from Defra, NFU said: more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered last year in England because of this devastating disease and that more than 3,800 farms that had previously been clear of the disease were affected by it.

Mr Hudspith said “The NFU has always supported a comprehensive and proportionate eradication strategy, which balances disease controls measures with business sustainability. We must have every option available to us to tackle bTB – including cattle testing, cattle movement restrictions, biosecurity advice, vaccination and control of the disease in wildlife.”

The NFU said that the Chief Vet has explained that taking comprehensive action to prevent bTB infection of cattle from the reservoir of disease in local badger populations is an essential part of the Government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease in England, and proactive badger control is at this time the best available option to do this.

But the Wildlife Trusts have accused the government of “forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling” without waiting for the outcome of a review. Ellie Brodie, senior policy manager, said: “The badger cull is a dangerous distraction from addressing the main route of bTB transmission in cattle which is between cattle. We’re calling on the Government to invest in medicine, not marksmen. The costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them – it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate a badger.”