A Badger Cull Could Cost Farmers

UK - A proposed badger cull could end up costing farmers more than an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis (TB) on their farm, according to government advice.
calendar icon 15 February 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

Plans mooted last year and due to be decided soon recommended they not only carry out the cull but also pay all associated costs upfront.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that a cull in parts of England could be part of a package of measures to tackle the problem of bovine TB in cattle.

It would be carried out and paid for by licensed farmers and landowners in „hot spots‟ by various methods including free-shooting at night. They would need to adhere to stringent conditions to ensure the cull is carried out in line with scientific advice.

The RSPCA is extremely concerned about the plans which best scientific advice indicates are likely to increase the incidence of bovine TB in cattle rather than reduce it*, and could cause suffering to badgers. It also believes that they would be uneconomic, time-consuming and difficult to put into effect.

A Defra report admitted that farmers could be left with a net cost, which means that the process would ultimately cost them rather than save them money. It also said these costs would be needed upfront in case the licensed farmers and landowners decided to „drop out‟.

Some farmers could end up spending more money over a four-year period than an incident of bovine TB might cost them.

The Society wants to draw farmers‟ attention to the expense they may be taking on ahead of the National Farmers Union conference in Birmingham this week.

David Bowles, RSPCA Director of Communications, said: “We want to make sure farmers are fully aware about what is in store for them. These plans are just not economically viable and they would be the ones left with most of the costs.

“Any decision for a widespread cull of badgers would be totally unacceptable to the RSPCA and it is extremely concerned about how this cull may be carried out. Scientific evidence has shown that any cull has to be rigorous and follow stringent conditions yet the more rigorous the conditions the higher the cost will be and so the more uneconomic it will be.”

The RSPCA does not believe that the untested approach (licensing groups of farmers to carry out the cull) and untested method (shooting) would substantially eradicate bovine TB in cattle and thinks it could result in severe welfare implications for badgers.

It fears that it would be near impossible for Defra or Natural England to monitor licensed farmers and/or landowners and that using free-shooting as a method could lead to wounding and unnecessary suffering.

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