Badger cull - views for and against
With the badger cull in Gloucestershire expected to begin this week, the Echo presents the arguments.
Charles Mann, chairman of the NFU in Gloucestershire
I've experienced the destruction bovine TB can create on my own farm, and I am an organic farmer with cattle living outside all year round. Nothing prepares you for the heart-wrenching moment when the vet tells you an animal that you've reared since birth has TB, despite taking every reasonable precaution to prevent it.
And it's not just farmers who are dealing with this devastation. Vets are also on the frontline of this fight. Rob Darvill, a Gloucestershire vet, recently said "nothing could prepare" him for the moment he saw cow after cow diagnosed with TB.
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Rob Darvill, Gloucestershire vet
Action has to be taken now to stop the impact of this disease spreading further. In 2012, 35,000 cattle were wasted and 5,171 new herds were infected. Government scientists, farming leaders and veterinary experts agree that reducing the numbers of badgers in some of the most heavily-infected areas will help to break the cycle of infection between badgers and cattle, and begin to reduce TB in both species.
I'm fully supportive of the idea of vaccines for both cattle and badgers, but there is no vaccine available to protect our herds and best estimates from the European Commission suggest it will be 10 years before one will be available.
Vaccinating badgers is not a realistic viable alternative at the moment either. It's no use if a badger already has TB, as a vaccine only helps prevent disease, it doesn't cure it, and it would have little impact in areas where the disease is endemic in the badger population.
It costs £662 per badger per year for five years – £3,310 per badger.
Everyone wants a countryside populated by healthy badgers and cattle. Tackling the disease in badgers in areas where it is endemic is one of the central elements of achieving this, but is only a part of the story. As well as reducing badger numbers, we are testing cattle, slaughtering infected animals, restricting trade and cattle movements, improving bio-security and investing in research for improved vaccination techniques, but we have to face facts and look at the wildlife problem at the same time.
Liz Gaffer, of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting
There is no scientific, economic or animal welfare justification for culling badgers.
Eleven thousand have already been killed as a trial to see if this would help reduce bovine TB and the trial concluded that, at best, there would be a 16 per cent reduction in the spread of the disease.
In fact, the independent report said that culling badgers could actually make the spread worse. And eight years of intensive badger culling in the Republic of Ireland has failed to make any significant contribution to lowering levels of infection in their herds.
The cost of culling badgers is more expensive than vaccinating them. Using government figures, it costs more to cull and police a cull like this than it does to cage, trap and vaccinate, and that's without taking into account the free time of volunteers, such as those out on wounded badger patrols, who would no doubt be willing to train to do this.
Defra has already said that badgers will be injured and not killed outright in this cull, which takes place at night, leaving many to die painful deaths. And whilst we pursue a cull of badgers in this way, we reduce the focus on getting rid of the disease through other means and cattle continue to suffer.
There are other ways to help farmers, reduce the cost of this disease and improve animal welfare on farms and in our countryside, rather than have the painful cull that is due to start here in Gloucestershire. And in the long term, these would be more popular for everyone involved.