Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Peers question badger cull proposals

The government's plan to cull badgers in an effort to protect cattle from bovine tuberculosis (TB) has come under fire in the Lords.

Lord Krebs, author of a 1997 report that led to a randomised badger culling trial, and Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientific adviser, both questioned the merits of the scheme.

At question time in the House of Lords on 16 November 2010, farming minister Lord Henley said the scientific advice was "quite clear" that badger culling could be effective.

He said that more than 25,000 cattle had to be compulsorily slaughtered last year and described bovine TB as "Britain's biggest endemic animal health issue".

Lord Krebs asked him: "Do you agree with the estimate of your own officials that, based on the results of the randomised badger culling trials, long-term intensive culling of badgers would lead to a 16% reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle over a nine-year period?

"Even this very modest reduction, leaving 84% of the problem unaffected, would be only achievable with highly-effective, large-scale long-term culling, otherwise culling will make the problem worse."

Lord Henley replied: "On-going monitoring since the end of those trials has indicated that the positive impacts on herd breakdowns within the culled areas have continued to last a considerable number of years after they ended and have seen a reduction of some 28% in those areas

"So, there is a reduction and it is a considerable reduction. We have never said that culling is the sole answer.

"We have always made it clear that we believe that there will be other measures that need to be taken and we need every tool in the toolbox."

Other questions focused on reducing the number of female deaths in custody, reforming health quangos, and forced labour.

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