Thursday, March 03, 2005

We'll only help if cull is agreed

Andrew Forgrave of the North Wales Daily Post writes today:

Frustrated farmers say they will only help shoulder the cost of the Government's new bovine TB strategy if badger culling is included.

Rural ministry Defra this week published guidelines to help government, vets, farmers and wildlife groups tackle TB in cattle and farmed deer more effectively.

Research on badger culling will continue, but in the meantime efforts will concentrate on the premovement testing of cattle, designed to prevent cattle-to-cattle spread.

Under the strategy, greater responsibility for making bovine TB decisions will be passed to the regional administrations.

Wales countryside minister Carwyn Jones is hoping to develop a partnership approach which would demand "commitment, compromise and co-operation".

But the National Beef Association said co-operation would be difficult if farmers were unconvinced by the tactical approach - especially if there was a financial cost involved.

NBA chief executive Robert Forster said: "Farmers will only agree to contribute to cost if they have more say in control strategies."

Last week, 322 UK vets signed a letter urging the government to back a strategic cull of TB-infected badgers.

Their letter condemned the "wholly inadequate approach... in controlling the disease".

The National Association of Badger Groups said Defra was unlikely to be cowed by the letter, especially as cattle trading was seen by scientists as the main mode of spreading TB.

The FUW accused Defra of giving badgers a "god-like status" and refusing to face facts.

FUW policy officer Nick Fenwick said: "Defra supports the killing of deer in order to protect trees, despite the fact that, in Wales, badgers outnumber deer by 40 to one."

Defra has said it will use data from Ireland as well as the randomised badger culling trials to assess whether badger culling may form part of future control strategies.

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