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West Somerset MP: badger cull only option to fight TB
FREE shooting of thousands of badgers in West Somerset is the only option for dealing with bovine TB, says the district’s MP.
Natural England has issued licences for culling badgers in pilot zones in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire in a bid to tackle the spread of TB in livestock, which has cost the farming industry an estimated £500million in the last decade.
Each licence lasts for four years and authorises certain people within each area to kill badgers over a six-week period annually between June 1 and January 31.
At least 2,081 badgers, but no more than 2,162 – or 70% of the population in the West Somerset zone, which spans between 150 to 350 square kilometres – must be killed.
West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said: “TB has spiralled out of control, we had to kill stock and compensate farmers for 35,000 cattle last year – and we’re getting some serious questions from Europe as to when we are going to start tackling the disease.
“Culling is really the only tool in the box at the moment. A vaccine for cattle is still ten, maybe 15 years away, and if we wait that long there will be very few cattle left to inject.
“One day we may be able to bring a multi-faceted operation to bear onTB but that day is a long way off yet.
“We are reduced to firefighting with an operation which is less than perfect but which in reality offers the only real means we have of making inroads againstthis ghastly disease which, let’s not forget, is fatalto badgers as well.
“Clearly if anyone has any concerns about the cull I shall be more than happy to hear from them.”
But animal welfare groups are opposed to the scheme and say vaccination is the way forward.
Badger Trust chairman David Williams said: “Thousands of healthy badgers will die or be wounded in a night-time fusillade of rifle fire that will kill and wound and put members of the public at real risk.
“And for what? At best a minimal reduction in bovine TB levels over nine years, a time span which could see huge advances in vaccination – for cattle and badgers – and the emergence of a scientifically validated bTB control mechanism.
“Bit by bit [Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] Owen Paterson’s case for badger culling is falling apart under independent scientific scrutiny.
“We see the slaughter of an iconic previously protected indigenous British mammal as a speculative, irresponsible, politically driven decision which will inflame public opinion and cause immense damage to the reputation of Britain’s farmers.
“We will continue to oppose this appalling decision by every legal means possible.”