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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 16:09 GMT
Culling of badgers suspended
Bovine TB increased by 27% in areas of reactive culling
The culling of badgers has been suspended by the government after new tests suggested it was counterproductive in the battle against tuberculosis in cattle.

The announcement was made in a written statement to the House of Commons from Exeter MP and animal health and welfare minister Ben Bradshaw.

Mr Bradshaw said culling would be suspended in "reactive treatment areas" with immediate effect.

He said the decision had been taken on the basis of recent scientific findings from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle Tuberculosis (ISG).

Many farmers are convinced badgers are responsible for spreading bovine tuberculosis among their cattle.

I have decided to suspend operations immediately because of the risk that a further three months of culling would cause additional TB breakdowns
Ben Bradshaw, animal health and welfare minister
The ISG was appointed by the government in 1998 to design and oversee a large-scale field trial aimed at evaluating badger culling as a way of reducing the incidence of TB in cattle.

The Krebs trials cover 10 areas across the country - five of them in the South West - as well as locations in Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

The areas are divided into three. In the first, the badgers are culled immediately (proactive culling); in the second, they are killed if there is an outbreak of TB (reactive culling); and in the third zone, the badgers are left alone.

The trials found that killing badgers in reaction to an outbreak of bovine TB led to an increase in the disease.

Mr Bradshaw said proactive culling would continue because the data for these areas did not yet yield a statistically significant result.

Ian Johnson, of the National Farmers Union, said he was "greatly surprised" by the government's move.

"This was the most disrupted part of the trials by the foot and mouth outbreak and it hasn't been going on long enough.

"We can't quite understand on what science this has been based.

"We will be asking some very urgent questions because this is an intractable problem which is not going to go away."

He said the TB disease was out of control in many parts of the South West.

The BBC's John Maguire
"There's talk of vaccination but that might be as much as ten years away"

Farmers call for badger cull
24 Sep 03  |  Wales
Killing badgers 'not the solution'
09 Apr 03  |  England

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