Badgers are blamed by farmers for spreading bovine TB
People in Somerset remain divided over whether a badger cull is the best way to eradicate bovine TB in cattle.
The coalition government has announced that it will look it into badger culls.
The Welsh Assembly has already taken this step and is due to begin a trial in North Pembrokeshire imminently.
The National Farmers Union claim 40,000 cattle are killed every year because of bovine TB spread by badgers but animal welfare campaigners say there is no evidence a cull would stop the spread.
Supporters of a badger cull
The National Farmers Union has long campaigned for a cull, saying it is the best answer to eradicate the disease.
Meurig Raymond, deputy president for the NFU, said: "It has been proven globally, in southern Ireland, in New Zealand, even the John Bourne Report said if we are going to eradicate bovine TB we need to beat this disease in all sectors, and that is cattle, badgers and deer in certain areas."
He believes the government needs a change in policy, not just to help farmers, but wildlife too.
"The last thing we want is diseased cattle and diseased badgers, and diseased badgers suffer. They die, they spread the disease and we want to see clean cattle and clean badgers."
Whitefield Farm has lost 20 cattle because of bovine TB in the past three years and at the moment the farm has been shut down as they await the results of bovine TB tests.
Becky Hurd, a member of Somerset Young Farmers Club in Somerset, runs the farm with her father.
"The closure of the farms means we cannot do any trading whatsoever, we have to keep hold of all our animals. Some of the cattle we've got, because of the over-48-month ban of livestock going into the food chain will go over age and will have to be burnt," said Becky.
"From the emotional point of view, the effects of not being able to sell any animals, having our animals being slaughtered is unbelievable, it's so hard to understand how it can affect you."
Protesters against a badger cull
Adrian Coward is a member of the Somerset Badger Group which is a branch of Somerset Wildlife Trust.
He believes that part of the problem lies in cattle testing.
"I believe, and it's well-recorded, that we have a test regime for cattle which is not at all adequate; we have test results which show false positives and false negatives, this is not helping the farming community at all."
He thinks testing badgers won't work.
"It is a fallacy when people say we want healthy cattle and healthy badgers - you cannot test badgers until you have killed them.
"That's already been proven; 11,000 badgers have been culled in the south west as part of randomised badger culling trials and a vast majority of them were healthy when they were tested post-mortem."
He says vaccinating cattle would also be a problematic.
"We could vaccinate cattle now, people would not like to admit this but we could.
"The problem is that if we vaccinate cattle now, we cannot then test them to see whether they were actually vaccinated or infected and that would be a significant problem for trading with the European Union."
What do you think is the best solution to eradicate bovine TB? Send us your comments here.
The meat and dairy industry receives huge subsidies from the taxpayer and assistance from union lobbying. The vested interests that sit on the commitees demanding the slaughter of badgers are an abomination.
Advertising and politicians are not interested in the fact that there is no independant evidence to support such the mass killing of badgers - profit is the motive in keeping these sick industries alive at whatever the cost to wildlife and the environment.
Steven Edwards, London
Since there is no independent scientific evidence that culling badgers will cure the bovine TB problem the relevant ministers at Westmister and the Welsh Assembly Government should be compelled to reveal their personal interest in these matters.
Are they both not farmers? How can they hold such official positions and propose and legislate for the extermination of one of Britain's most wonderful creatures Should they not declare their interest and be banned from all political discussions on this subject? In Local Government they would be. Come on Labour Party - expose all these vested farming industry interests.
What other industry would get away with proposing the death of fauna for the sake of profits? These question require answers on a political front. Farmers should be made look to their own husbandry to eradicate bovine TB. If all taxpayers compensation was stopped I expect we would see an immediate reduction in bovine TB as husbandry improves to reduce the disease. This should become a big political issue.
Charles Allan, Flint Clwyd
So at the moment we're faced with two choices; Do nothing and let the disease spread or cull.
Faced with the scientific facts that "there is no certainty that a 'field effective' bTB vaccine of either animal can be produced" and that "badgers contribute significantly to the disease in cattle." To cull suddenly seems a more sensible option.
Personally I would rather have badgers than cows milk, and I would certainly rather have badgers than farmers. Just look at the litter, rubbish, grubbed out hedges, vast subsidies, and selfishness of farmers and the badgers certainly win paws down. By the way I work in the farming industry and the dairy bit.
Vic Dickens, West Yorkshire
No to the cull, why do innocent animals always get the blame.
Sim, Peterborough, Cambs
I think they should just get on and order the cull or at least make a quick decision as frankly i think it is dragging on to long.
Badgers are taking over, I have even seen many badgers running around Clapham Common. I'm not sure if a cull is the right answer though as some of the badgers are genuinely beautiful specimens. It may be possible to use other forms of protection against the diseases the badgers spread.
No we should not be culling any more badgers, please wake up and see sense, we have been culling badgers since 1975, and it has made no difference what so ever.
In the recent random culling trials, 11,000 badgers were culled in Devon, of these only 166 were said to be infected and able to spread the disease, this means that 10.834 badgers died for nothing.
The judicial review has proved that killing badgers will do no good, so why are we still talking about it.
Please please lobby your MP to get the TB test brought into the 21st century.
Cows are still turning up in abattoirs with bTB, this proves that the test which is only 80% accurate needs to be top of the list for change, not killing wildlife.
The TB test is the first line of defence, for this disease, which is a CATTLE disease not a wildlife one, it is unfortunate that the disease has escaped into the wildlife populations, but it is primarily a Cattle disease and needs sorting out in the cow first.
Judging by the small percentage of badgers with the disease I would draw the conclusion that they had built up a good immunity to it, and if left alone nature will eventually take care of the disease in the wild populations.
It is not just badgers that have it, all warm blooded animals now suffer from it, and if tested like the cow, I bet you would find a high percentage of sheep have it as well, and they graze the same fields as the cattle.
There are many more things that can be done on the farm to halt the disease, killing wildlife is counter productive.
Jan Curtis, Aswater, Devon
For those that don't already know, the cull in Wales was ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal and has been halted. Vaccination trials are being carried out on badgers now in England by DEFRA, and the results are awaited. One small step towards solving the issue without culling. Here in Scotland we are officially TB free and we don't cull badgers. All cattle movements are pre-tested, and all cattle coming into Scotland is quarantined and tested before integration into the herds. It works for us !
Keith, Edinburgh, Scotland
When i was growing up on the family farm many years ago it was quite something to see a Badger now i find it quite distressing to see Badgers both young and old dead on the road. Taking T.B aside ( farmers literally tearing their hair out ) Can these so called animal lovers not see the damage these animals are not only doing to themselves but also to the rest of the animal world ?
Like Foxes Badgers are territorial so threes a crowd the young get pushed out from established setts to fend for themselves and have to compete for food then we hear from other animal welfare groups saying "we have no bees , we have no hedgehogs We have no ground nesting birds something killed my chickens what has dug up my lovely lawn "!Wake up and smell the coffee you lot we are , for want of a better phrase the only predator the badger has, apart from the motor vehicle! Us lot in the countryside are not born Killers we don't want to eradicate a whole species we just need to do what is right both for humanity and the Badger.
James Street, Salisbury
I am a farmer from Lincolnshire and i have witnesses the devastation that TB can bring to a farmer and his livelihood. I witnessed one associate have his herd wiped out by TB. That was 2 years ago, and it has only just become clear for him to rebuild his life.
In my opinion, the simplest and most cost effective option to reduce/eradicate TB is the cull of badgers. However, i can see the down sides to this, so i also see the vaccination, if feasible, of badger sets. I do not see, however, the vaccination of the cows as an option. If this is taken up, farmers are going to lose yet more money sorting a problem which could have been sorted with less expenditure and time, if the government had pulled their fingers out sooner.
Henry Robinson, Grantham
As i come from a farming back ground and have seen the effects of bovine Tb i can understand why the badger cull has been suggested. However i dont think this is the answer in the 21st century, mainly because the badger is not the only carrier that lives in our countryside. Deer also are carriers and was possible the cause of the out break on our farm as we did not have badgers any where near but often the deer came and grazed amongst our herd. The cull is going to be expensive to organise and i for one would rather have all animals vaccinated as i feel prevention with this method would in the long run be beneficial to all concerned.
Sue Pitkin, Kings Lynn Norfolk
Cull the badgers now - while we still have a few farmers left. THIS COUNTRY NEEDS FOOD SECURITY
David Jones, Torquay
what a deluded nation of townspeople we have in this country who have absolutely no idea of real life. all cattle in this country are tested before movement, and are regularly tested. problem cattle are culled.[after many years of selective breeding ,unlike the human population. cattle are turned out to graze pasture in spring summer and autumn and are tested again. test results in the autumn in my area show a rise in bovine tb why? in my opinion there is a problem in the wildlife of badgers, deer and other susceptible animals. other countries have had the guts to sort it out .there is now a problem in the wild life background, which there was not before. people say cattle spread tb yes they do but they are tested before movement. we have to many townspeople with an opinion with very little first hand experience of the facts and of farming. many should be trained on how to vaccinate the badger population.?
Rachel Jones, Hereford
Greed & laziness! It is cheaper to kill everything that gets in the way of profit as a knee-jerk reaction rather than to approach the problem in a scientific, rational and sustainable way. If consumers (that's you and me) really care, we can vote with our wallets by boycotting beef and milk.
I just watched the BBC report on the possible badger cull in Wales. This was so inflamatory and one sided I'm disgusted with the BBC. Not once was it mentioned that thousands of cattle are slaughtered because of this disease, how about showing film of lovely dairy cows and young stock that are shot, all over the UK. These cattle provide food for us all, but all we saw were the the so called killers of the poor badgers and how much farmers are paid in compensation. Farmers don't want compensation they want healthy animals and the ability to continue feeding the country. Lets have lots of TB ridden badgers and lots of foreign food. Another nail in the coffin of agriculture,eh.
Hilary Hiscox, Pylle, Somerset
It is completely barbaric to kill badgers instead of using vaccines to prevent disease. How can it be justifiable to kill badgers as part of a cull when it has been accepted that they deserve to be protected generally in recent years. Farmers hate badgers for the disruption they cause to their crops etc and will be only too glad of the excuse to kill any on their property
As an Ex resident of U.K., i can only say that I am pleased to now live in a civilised Country that believes in 'Live and Let Live'. Killing is only for food, not pleasure and cost cutting.
The U.K. [and the West generally] have become an "I" society.
I have money, I have power I will do what I want.
Persuit of these types of policies breed discontent and leads ultimately people expressing themselves the only ways that they can. I do not support or condone animal rights groups, but I do understand the frustrations that drive them to take any actions that they can.
BUREAUCRATS WAKE UP - YOU ARE NOT GODS, act wi some level of humanity and find a solution that will benfit all, not just your selfish shortsighted easy 'easy options"
Bill Morris, Ban Chang, Thailand
These badgers have been native to the UK for hundreds if not thousands of years. Originally I come from Australia. Although a very different fauna applies to my home country, I am utterly shocked that a talk of culling a native animal would ever be considered. Surely we should be discussing solutions, vaccines, preventions to the Bovine TB, and not trying to solve a problem by unnecessary destruction of thousands of living creatures. This sounds like an old argument, for an already disproved theory.
A farmer friend of ours is aware of the heartache suffered by other farmers when their stock has to be slaughtered as a result of Bovine TB, but he is not in favour of culling because he knows his badgers are clean since he has had no TB in his cattle. If there were to be a badger cull, he fears that other badgers could move onto his farm which could be carrying the disease.
Di, Yeovil, Somerset
The evidence from the scientists is clear. It is cattle to cattle transmission that is the root cause of bovine Tb. That may not suit the NFU or the politicians who need the votes but it is fact. I understand that many of the diseases suffered by farm animals are on the increase. Poor old badgers are not guilty on that one so it must be down to poor husbandry no doubt caused by the pressure on farmers to produce cheaper and cheaper food. No one likes to see cattle, badgers, deer, alpacas or any other animal catch bovine Tb but for badgers their suffering is limited because they often recover from the disease. Finally, I am not a vegetarian but find it somewhat hypocritical of farmers who complain of having to slaughter animals as I understood that was the reason for keeping them in the first place. Also if my production line goes wrong I cant go cap in hand for a nice slice of compensation from the Government.
Here in North Pembrokeshire we have been fighting the stupidity of culling badgers as part of a pilot bovine tb eradication programme.
It has divided our communities threatens to ruin our tourist and food industries and cost £23m pounds over 5 years for a 6-9% reduction (WAG figures)at the end of which bovine TB will start to rise again.
The only sane solution to this terrible problem is to vaccinate Bovine TB has down by nearly 50% in 10 months in Wales as a result of better cattle controls. This and vaccination is where the answer lays.
Michael Griffiths, North Pembrokeshire
After spending millions of pounds killing thousands of Badgers over a period of 10yrs, the scientific conclusion was that there would be little benefit in killing more, and in fact it may make matters worse. This government should be ashamed, they said that they would act on scientific research, sounds more like farmers gut feelings and farmers pressure to me.
TB is spread by cattle movement, milk lorries, farm vehicles, farmers boots, muck spreading etc, all of which is not helped by tests which are inaccurate. I understand that the tests only identify 2 thirds of cattle carrying the disease, leaving the other third to pass it on to the rest of the herd. If only we had a government who cared about our wildlife.
Surprising how the police can turn out in numbers to help with killing Badgers, just try to get them to attend a Fox hunt.
Charles Turner, Bridgwater
The solution to a problem involving animals is always that we must kill something. If a cull goes ahead and hundreds of badgers die this could mean that eventually there will be very few badgers left and then one day there will be none. What other animal do we have that is like the badger....the answer is none...this animal is unique and special to England. Another thing to remember is that we built our farms and choose to farm our cattle on the badgers land not the other way around.
Ann-Marie Long, Mere, Wiltshire
Why is it that we always blame other creatures for our messes. The main reason for Btb is the movement of cattle and the closure of local abbatoirs. Badgers don't travel hundreds of miles leaving trails of dung and urine behind them, they are very clean animals, living in groups in relatively small areas. There are far too many cows and people in the world. We have no right to eliminate a species supposedly for our own benefit, though we constantly do so. What is the point of scientific research if politicians don't listen to it? Spelman should stop worrying about votes. Culling badgers has never worked nor will it ever work. Open some more local abattoirs and cut down on cattle movements, both nationally and abroad.
Jane P. Craig, Lamyatt, Shepton Mallet, UK
There is no evidence for the Association between badgers and tb in cows step into the 21st century
Meurig Raymond campaigned to get a cull in Pembrokeshire, now the NFU want to spread these culls across the South West. It has been a terrible political process by the Welsh Assembly who first passed a law so that no-one could object to culling on their land, and are now ready to wipe out all the badger families in the area even on the Wildlife Trust's reserves.
This cull will be an extremely expensive exercise, and is a carrot to get farmers to take better biosecurity measures. The benefits are small and the community disruption is acute as views are polarised. There has never been an acceptance by the unions that cattle movements after Foot and Mouth disease when testing for bovine TB was suspended could be the root cause of the explosion of cases in cattle, or that other factors to do with the test and length of time of removal of cattle together with the spreading of slurry, and the confinement of cattle in sheds over winter could have a great deal more to do with it than badgers which are a minor factor.
No, No, No! Culling badgers cannot be the answer. More badgers will move into the setts anyway. Farmers have acknowledged that deer can be spreading T.B. and there's no way of confining them to a particular area. How can the scientific opinion be that badgers are the harbinger when so many tested after death do not have the disease?
VACCINATE your cattle, farmers! Politicians, please ensure the prejudice against doing this will no longer have foundation. This is the ANSWER!
Jennie, Frome, Somerset
How much money will be spent and how many cattle and other species are we going to have to kill to eradicate this disease which has only hypothetical risks for humans and animals? The Pembrokeshire badger cull and associated measures is to cost £10 million. The cull is likely to achieve just 6-9% reduction in bovine TB for only 2 years following the five years of the cull. Will a cost benefit analysis be undertaken to justify the costs? Will farmers ultimately bear the brunt of an unpopular and expensive culls that are not properly backed up by scientific evidence and are not likely to end the suffering for farmers?
The UK is spending millions of pounds (now approaching £100 million annually) on bovine TB (bTB) and trying to eradicate a disease where the risks are hypothetical. Even the Health Protection Agency has stated that there is negligible risk to humans from bTB if milk is pasteurised and meat cooked. Around 85% of cattle and 82% of the human population are in areas where bovine TB is either only partially controlled or not controlled at all. With rapidly increasing globalisation and cattle movements, imports/exports, and discovering of the disease in many other species how can we ever expect to eradicate bTB permanently from the UK? Even the human form is on the increase, being brought in by people from abroad, coming here from areas where TB is endemic.
Why are we spending so much money on trying to eradicate bTB when there is financial crisis and jobs/services are to be cut? It has been refreshing to see that some experts are beginning to question the current policy. 'Public Health and bovine tuberculosis - what's all the fuss about?' is a recently published report by Dr Paul R Torgerson and Professor David J Torgenson. They conclude that bTB control in cattle is irrelevant as a public health policy and there is little evidence either for a positive cost benefit in terms of animal health of bTB control. It suggests that such evidence is required; otherwise there is little justification! for the large sums of money spent on bTB control in the UK. In fact there is more risk to human health from the existing skin test for cattle.
A farmer in Ireland died recently after being injured when cattle were being tested for bTB. A control, rather than eradication, programme for bTB would be cheaper, better for farmers and could be based on the existing BCG vaccine for cattle (pending the development of better vaccines). Of course it would need to be approved by the politicians, farming unions, veterinary professions and EU - and here we hit the stumbling blocks ....
Sally, Newcastle Emlyn, Wales
Why should we be allowed to take it upon ourselves to kill these lovely creatures? They were living in many of our areas before our homes were built, and if any one is the intruders we are.
No one has stopped to think of the good that they provide, for instance in our gardens.
Being a badger lover and completely against the killing of them, having held a baby badger at a wonderful rescue and rehabilitation centre and enjoying feeding them and watching them enjoy foraging for food each evening, i can quite believe that we are the only threat to them, if we decide to take it upon ourselves to destroy a protected species like this.
If a solution is to be found for this problem, it is definitely not this.
I've always said its spread by the milk tankers. going from farm to farm in and out of the mess from cows.all dairy farms should have large deep dips that the tankers drive into to kill off the TB carried in the mess. it stands to reason that the tankers are spreading it all over the country, from farm to farm - not the badgers. Country file did a cull of hundreds years ago.not one badger had TB.not one.all killed for nothing
Shane O'Brien, Crewkerne
Why do we resort to killing another living being simply because it is inconvenient to humans? This does not reflect well on us. If unnecessary deaths are to be avoided to all parties, vaccination would seem to be the best answer. Just getting something out of our way is arrogant.
Badgers are victims rather than villains where TB is concerned, having contracted the disease from cattle in the first place. Bovine TB was once nearly eradicated from Britain, solely by the annual TB-testing of cattle and the slaughter of those found to be infected - no badgers were killed to achieve this result.
Since then the frequency of testing has been reduced in many areas and changes in the cattle industry such as the many movements of cattle from one place to another has helped to spread the disease once more. In Wales and Northern Ireland, where tougher cattle-based control measures have been introduced, TB levels are falling. Incidence of the disease is falling in England too. At a time when wasteful public spending is being cut, why are politicians even considering throwing away money on killing badgers?
In Northern Ireland, bTB fell from 9.95% to 5.35% between 2002 and 2007. It is now more or less steady.
In the same period, bTb in the South West rocketed to about 25% in Devon.
Why the difference?
In Northern Ireland there was greater testing and movement controls.
Now, it could be that a cull is needed in NI to reduce the rate from 5.35% to nothing, but....
In England the NFU has used its industrial muscle to say "No testing without a cull". (Meanwhile the taxpayer pays the farmers for culled animals)
bTB in England has been spread by .... the NFU.
Theo Hopkins, Oakford, Devon
In the XXI century the solution never must be kill badgers. This even promotes the spread of the disease allowing badger emigration. Jorge, Sevilla, Spain
Vaccination of cattle should be happening for the sake of farmers, their cattle and badgers. EU rules need to be changed to allow this. To cull badger populations and to continue to kill cattle that test positive to bovine Tb is appalling.