Gloucestershire badger cull: 'Darkest days' of farmer hit by slaughter of TB cattle
A FARMER faced his "darkest days" when he lost more than a third of his herd to bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
David Barton, 46, showed the Echo yesterday the first-hand effects of the deadly disease in his home at Manor Farm, Middle Duntisbourne, near Cirencester.
The farm, which has been in the Barton family for a century and three generations, was first hit by the disease in 2001, with four outbreaks since.
The latest in 2011 saw him lose more than 50 cattle, at least a third of his overall herd, with the majority of them breeding cows.
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Around 104 cattle have been shot there since 2001 because of the disease.
He said: "They were some of my darkest days, certainly the most difficult I have had to face in my entire career.
"I have never lost that many.
"What people don't understand is that these are breeding cows, which stay in the family for years.
"The ones I lost could have been with me for another 10 to 15 years.
"I grew up knowing them, I see them born, I take care of them.
"It was heartbreaking when they were shot.
"When they were taken away two years ago, I couldn't even do the last lorry.
"I had to ask my neighbour to do it.
"It's more than just a financial loss, there is an emotional connection with the animals we rear.
"Can you imagine what it is like to hear a calf mooing for her mother after she has been slaughtered? It's difficult.
"I'm lucky to have the support of family and friends, but some farmers who might be more isolated and are susceptible to depression will find it really tough."
The farm has not yet been given a clean bill of health, and his cattle needs to be tested every 60 days.
It will not be declared bTB free until there are two consecutive negative tests.
He rejected claims the disease was brought into his 360-acre farm by buying cows, with all of his herd before the 2011 outbreak being reared at the farm.
His son, Benjamin, 23, also runs a farm next door and David plans for his son to take over in years to come.
"Because the number of badgers have increased so much, they have become diseased.
"What we need is a healthy population of badgers and healthy population of cattle.
"I have seen all the evidence, and a cull is essential to stop this disease."
MEET THE FARMER OPPOSED TO THE BADGER CULL:
FARMER Dave Purser, who owns Newbridge Farm in Clapton-on- the-Hill, in the Cotswolds, is against the badger cull and any extension.
He insisted the cull was counter-productive, and would lead to wildlife perturbation with infected badgers potentially leaving the zone.
Dave, who owns the 120-acre beef and sheep farm, had remained bTB free for almost 30 years, before an outbreak last year closed the farm.
He said: “We understand the pressure on farmers when their businesses are put on hold following a bTB breakdown, but this is the result of the Government’s test and cull cattle policy, which needs addressing.
“We don’t believe the badger cull is the appropriate response in this day and age.
“We have written to Natural England detailing our concern, including our belief they will leave themselves open to possible legal action if farmers with bTB-free herds around the cull zones subsequently face the disease.
“The NFU does not represent the entire farming community. The way forward is badger vaccination, not cull. Vaccination does not cause perturbation.”