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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 16:40 GMT
Badger cull consultation 'flawed'
Badger (BBC)
Badgers are blamed for the spread of TB among cattle herds
The government's consultation on badger culling was flawed because a number of the possible options were based on unsound science, MPs have said.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said evidence from scientists showed only extensive culling would cut TB levels in cattle.

Yet ministers also asked for opinions on issuing individual licences, and limited controls on badger numbers.

Many farmers blame badgers for a sharp increase of TB in their herds.

'Not viable'

The committee said the consultation document failed to take account of the findings of the government's Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), lead by Professor John Bourne.

In December, Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw launched a consultation on three possible culling options:

  • individual licensing
  • a targeted cull over specific areas
  • a general cull over larger areas of high TB incidence

Figures published at the time by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showed that more than 22,500 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered in 2004, because of the disease, at a cost to taxpayers of 90.5m.

Michael Jack, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: "Two of the three questions asked were, in light of the opinion of Professor John Bourne and the committee of independent scientists, not viable.

"Professor Bourne found that if you were going to have any kind of culling it would have to be very intense, over a long period of time and over a very large area.

"If Mr Bradshaw has had some other advice from within his department which convinces him that he can go ahead with an option that has been rejected by the ISG, we say he should publish it," he told the BBC News website.

A spokesman for Defra said they welcomed the committee's report and would consider it alongside other submissions made during the consultation.

"We recognise the importance of good cattle controls, which is why we are introducing pre-movement testing for cattle.

"We will be analysing carefully the approximately 35,000 responses to the consultation and exploring further some of the scientific questions, such as whether intensity of culling has any impact on the balance of benefit in bearing down on TB," he said.

The consultation period ended last week, and a decision would be made in "due course", the spokesman added.

'Hedges not cull' for cattle TB
08 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Badger culls among anti-TB plans
15 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature
Cattle movement key to TB spread
26 May 05 |  Science/Nature

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