Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Saturday, 20 September 2008 16:48 UK

Calls made for badger cull U-turn

Badger cull protesters in June 2008
Badger protesters have labelled the cull plans a "proposed massacre"

Animal campaigners have gathered across Wales in a series of protests to force the assembly government to rule out its planned badger cull.

Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (Viva) claim the plan is a "misguided attempt" to control bovine TB and want people to join their cause.

Minister for Rural Affairs Elin Jones announced in April there would be a targeted cull of badgers in Wales.

The assembly government says it is part of a package of measures to control TB.

Supporters of the animal group took to the streets from noon on Saturday in Bridgend, Cardiff, Haverfordwest, Lampeter, Llandysul, Porthmadog, Swansea, Wrexham and across the border in Oswestry.

Protesters asked members of the public to sign a petition asking AMs to reject the government's cull which is part of its TB Eradication Programme.


A cull of badgers in Wales will decimate wildlife, cost a huge amount of taxpayer's money and achieve nothing

Viva! campaigns manager Justin Kerswell

The major alternative to a cull is the vaccination of both cattle and badgers against TB, which Viva backs.

Viva claim the real reason behind the cull, which it has labelled a "proposed massacre", is pressure from the meat and dairy industries.

Campaigns manager Justin Kerswell said: "Badgers are scapegoats for bad farming practices and government failure.

"In their eagerness to blame anyone but themselves for the bovine TB epidemic, Welsh farmers and politicians are targeting wildlife when they should be looking closer to home.

"A cull of badgers in Wales will decimate wildlife, cost a huge amount of taxpayers' money and achieve nothing."

A badger
The assembly government announced its cull plan back in April

The cull has also been opposed by some MPs and AMs, most of them Labour, who have called for a return to "science-based evidence".

Earlier this week Badger Trust Cymru also called for assembly government to perform a U-turn on its cull plans.

The cull has the backing of the Farmers' Union of Wales because badgers have been identified as spreading TB amongst cattle.

Once cattle are found to be infected with the disease they are slaughtered in a bid to prevent it from spreading to other animals.

Cull supporters claim if the disease is left unchecked it would cost the public purse millions in compensation in terms of lost cattle and other control measures to keep TB in check.

'Comprehensive package'

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said it was committed to pursuing a programme of TB eradication in Wales.

This comprehensive package includes measures to test all Welsh cattle herds for infection, the removal of all sources of infection and a review of the compensation system, he added.

"When the TB eradication programme was announced it was recognised that any culling of badgers would be subject to meeting strict regulations and a number of requirements.

"The assembly government, in consultation with stakeholders, is taking this forward and will prioritise the establishment of an intensive action pilot area.

"No final decision has yet been made about a location capable of satisfying these criteria but we anticipate it would be in a defined high incidence area for the disease and subject to strict conditions."

He added that in the meantime no killing of badgers had been authorised by the assembly government.


SEE ALSO
Cameron backs Welsh badger cull
24 Jul 08 |  Mid Wales
Benn confirms TB cull rejection
07 Jul 08 |  Science/Nature
Report backs limited badger cull
27 Feb 08 |  Science/Nature

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