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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 12:04 GMT


Activists sabotaging badger cull

The cull will test the link between badgers and TB in cows

Animal welfare activists are trying to sabotage a controversial government badger cull.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) organised the trial cull in an attempt to establish once and for all whether there is a link between badgers and the devastating cattle disease, bovine tuberculosis (TB).

The BBC's Rupert Segar reports on the battle between animal rights campaigners and farmers
But activists have resorted to direct action amid concerns that the cull is causing unnecessary suffering to thousands of badgers.

In Liskeard in east Devon, up to 20 activists in the Badger Action Group go out every day to find and destroy traps laid by Maff officials.

Campaigners against the cull argue that it is "unscientific" and "cruel" and a waste of money that could be better spent on developing a vaccine, promoting better animal husbandry techniques and compensation for farmers.

TB still spreading

Until two years ago, badger killing was undertaken by Maff field staff if there was an outbreak of bovine TB in a farmer's herd.

[ image: TB in cows is an increasing problem]
TB in cows is an increasing problem
But that practice was not only fiercely opposed by animal welfare groups, but also appeared ineffectual, as TB kept spreading.

The government outlawed badger shooting in any new bovine TB areas, and instead set up a trial cull in 10 ministry-identified "hotspots", including Liskeard, in August 1998 so that scientists could establish whether or not there was a link.

Maff estimates that around 12,500 badgers will be culled during the operation, which will take five years.

Farmers 'crippled'

But farmers say they are being crippled by the TB which continues to spread while the trial is carried out.

In the Peak District for example, the number of herds with TB has doubled in the past year. Farmers have been forced to keep animals in quarantine which they otherwise would have sold.

The National Farmers' Union says 40,000 farmers will have been crippled with bovine TB by the time the scientists reach their conclusions.

But scientists say that the trial is the last chance to establish once and for all the badgers' guilt or innocence.

And if activists continue to wreck it, they say, TB could become the next BSE.

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06 May 99 | UK
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