DEFRA has confirmed its postponed pilot badger culls to help tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB) will be going this summer, stressing there will be “no further delays”.

DEFRA has confirmed its postponed pilot badger culls to help tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB) will be going ahead during the summer of 2013, stressing there will be “no further delays”.

DEFRA has confirmed the trial badger culls will go ahead this summerWhile cattle vets have voiced reassurance at the announcement, welfare groups claim the trials will be “ineffective, wasteful and potentially damaging to the welfare of both farm and wild animals”.

Speaking at the NFU conference on February 27, environment minister Owen Paterson confirmed the trial culls in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset would go ahead this June, having originally been postponed in 2012.

In addition, Mr Paterson said a reserve cull site would be prepared in Dorset to ensure the scheme goes ahead as planned.

He said: “I am determined that there are no further delays this year. That is why we have taken the sensible step with the farming industry to elect a reserve area that can be called upon should anything happen to prevent culling in Somerset or Gloucester.

“These pilot culls are just one part of our approach to control and eradicate this dreadful disease. We are using everything at our disposal to get to grips with bTB including new tougher controls on moving cattle, increased herd testing and working to get effective vaccines ready as soon as possible.”

The new cull authorisation letters issued by Natural England mean culling can start from June 1. The trials will last for around six weeks, during which time badgers will be shot by authorised farmers and officials.

The trials will then be repeated annually over a period of four years, and will be independently assessed to ensure the method is humane and is removing enough badgers.

BCVA president Jonathan StathamBCVA president Jonathan Statham told Vetsonline the announcement was “really important news”.

He said: “BTB is such a huge issue for the industry and a robust, balanced approach to managing it is critical. We have to regain control of bTB in this country and we have to have a balanced ‘tool kit’ approach.”

Mr Statham said the DEFRA cull policy was carefully thought out and argued cattle controls would be undermined if the bTB wildlife reservoir was not also tackled. He also stressed the importance of getting tangible findings from the trails, saying to would be a “real tragedy” if the results were buried at a later date.

However, while Mr Statham states bTB science supports targeted culling, the RSPCA argues the opposite and has labelled the cull barbaric.

The charity’s chief executive Gavin Grant said: “Despite overwhelming scientific, public and parliamentary opposition the Government seems hell bent on pressing forward with their senseless plans to kill badgers.

“All the evidence shows that the answer to the problems of bovine TB in cattle does not lie in a cull.”

He added: “[We] have great sympathy for the farmers dealing with the effects of this disease – but killing badgers is not the answer.”

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