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Charity says badgers not to blame for bovine TB

PUBLISHED: 14:00 27 August 2011

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A conservation charity says poor farming practices rather than badgers are to blame for the spread of TB in cattle.

The Canterbury-based Wildwood Trust is one of a growing number of organisations against Government plans to kill badgers through so-called “controlled shooting”, which opponents claim is not supported by sound science.

However, farmers have argued that such a cull is needed to control bovine tuberculosis.

Wildwood Trust chief executive Peter Smith said: “We are coming to the defence of badgers as they are used as a scapegoat by an industrial farming lobby determined to hide poor farming practices.

“A whole generation of farmers and ‘country people’ have grown up being told badgers are the main problem but have forgotten the basic epidemiological science of bovine tuberculosis. The farming lobby have found it much easier to blame badgers than address the fundamental problems of cattle farming and the poor practices that have led to the epidemic of TB in the British cattle herd.

“I myself have a degree in medical biochemistry, and my knowledge of how TB works leads me to agree with the leading scientists in the UK who have repeatedly stated that a badger cull would not reduce the incidence of bovine TB. This leads me to the conclusion that the farming industry is using badgers as an emotional tool to wrestle even more taxpayers’ money to subsidise intensive agriculture instead of spending it on protecting our environment.”

Last month the Government launched a consultation into a range of proposed measures aimed at tackling the disease.

These include plans for a pilot badger cull starting next spring in the South West of England, which could then become widespread across the country and throughout rural Kent.

A spokesman for the Tonbridge-based Animal Aid charity said at the time: “Shooting free-running badgers will be a welfare disaster. In defence of fox hunting, many Tory MPs argued that hunting foxes was humane while shooting them as they ran for their lives was cruel. But in order to suit its own agenda, the Government has now argued the exact opposite in relation to badgers.

“Culling badgers is a Conservative flagship policy and its announcement comes as no surprise, even though the public overwhelmingly opposes a cull and it is not supported by sound science.”

Last week the Labour Party launched a campaign against the planned cull and said more money needed to be spent developing a TB vaccine for cattle.

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