This is a report from earlier in the week.
Badger cull: Government plans will allow farmers to shoot badgers
15 September 2010 By Alistair Driver
FARMERS in TB hotspot areas of England will be permitted to shoot badgers on their land, under plans unveiled by Farming Minister Jim Paice this morning.
Mr Paice has published a three-month consultation on Government proposals to permit the licensed culling of badgers in England, possibly from next May.
Under the proposals, groups of farmers and landowners will come together in areas covering at least 150sq.km to apply collectively for licences to cull badgers on their land.
Two culling methods will be permitted, cage trapping and shooting and shooting free running badgers . The licence will also allow for badgers to be vaccinated in the designated area.
Farmers will cover the entire cost of the badger controls, with Defra's financial contribution limited to issuing the licences through Natural England and monitoring activities on the ground.
The decision to potentially allow free shooting is therefore highly significant as it represents a more affordable option for farmers who, as long as they possess the appropriate firearms licence, would be entitled to do it themselves.
To deploy cage traps, farmers would either have to be specially trained or rely on the services of trained contractors.
Free shooting was not used in the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT), which exclusively deployed cage trapping and shooting. This proved to be expensive, however, due to the cost of the cages, exacerbated by regular vandalism, and the manpower required.
Gassing and snaring have both been ruled out as options by Defra on animal welfare grounds.
Under the proposals, badger control licences would be subject to strict criteria to ensure, Mr Paice said, that measures are carried out effectively, humanely and with high regard to animal welfare (click here to see the licence criteria).
The earliest that culling could begin where licences have been approved is next May, when the closed season for badger culling ends.
The three-month consultation closes on December 8. Mr Paice is planning to announce a final decision on the badger culling policy next spring as part of a comprehensive and balanced bTB eradication programme.
He also announced today some changes to cattle measures, including greater use of gamma interferon blood testing and an extension of two-year testing areas to provide a greater buffer between hotspots and clean areas. He confirmed that pre-movement testing will remain in place, following a review.
But he insisted that it require more than cattle controls to tackle bTB.
"Bovine TB is having a devastating effect on many farm businesses and families, he said. The situation is steadily getting worse the number of animals slaughtered each year is unacceptable and more farms are affected as the disease spreads across the country.
We cannot go on like this. It is clear the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread.
There is no single solution to tackling bovine TB. Cattle measures will remain the foundation of our bovine TB control programme but we will not succeed in eliminating the disease in cattle unless we also tackle the disease in badgers.
The science is clear, there is no doubt that badgers are a reservoir of the disease and transmit bovine TB to cattle. No other country in the world with a similar reservoir in wildlife has eradicated TB from cattle without stringent wildlife control measures. in eliminating the disease in cattle unless we also tackle the disease in badgers."
While vaccination will be an option under the proposals, Mr Paice said veterinary advice and available scientific evidence suggested that on its own it would not reduce disease as quickly culling.
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