The English badger culls have been ‘a huge success’ and the template is now there for further roll out, according to NFU president Meurig Raymond as culling ended this week.
Natural England has confirmed has concluded for this year in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset.
According to Mr Raymond, who has become embroiled in a row with Professor Lord Krebs over the success of the culls, said contractors in all three areas ‘met their objectives’ in terms of removing badgers within the six-week culling period.
He said: “From where I am standing it has been a huge success this year. The objectives have been reached in six weeks.
“There has been a determination on the ground. It has been well planned and well organised. I can’t thank the people on the ground enough for their commitment and determination and because of that, it has proved highly successful.”
A number of potential areas are already a long way down the road to preparing for badger cull licences, including in Devon, Cornwall and Herefordshire, which had application rejected this year.
Mr Raymond said: “There is no reason we can’t roll it out to new areas next year. We have got a template in place. We have shown it can work on the ground.”
“The Secretary of State has said she is looking for many hew areas. We are determined to progress with the TB strategy that is on the table.”
But Mr Raymond has been accused by Lord Krebs of ‘misrepresenting the data’ and giving farmers ‘false hope’ over the success of the cull, after previous comments the NFU president has made claiming the cull is having a beneficial impact on cattle disease in the cull areas.
Speaking at the recent Labour Party Conference, Mr Raymond said: “We may well see evidence at the end of this year the two pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire will have seen a huge reduction in bTB in cattle herds. And I guess we will see the same in Dorset.”
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today, Professor Lord Krebs cited data published by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), which showed there was ‘no statistically significant association between the intervention and cattle bTB incidence in the first year of follow-up’.
Lord Krebs cited evidence from the report showing TB levels in the Gloucestershire area had gone up after one year of culling, although he acknowledged the figures were ‘not statistically significant as you have only got one year’s data’.
“But anybody who is claiming these numbers show the cull in those two counties produced a reduction (in TB in cattle) must be massaging the numbers, unless there is something else Meurig Raymond knows that I don’t know,” he said.
Mr Raymond insisted he was not referring to the published APHA figures in making his claims but was to anecdotal evidence from farmers and vets in the cull areas after the second year of culling.
Official data on the of culling on cattle after the second year of culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire is expected to be published later this year.
An NFU spokesman said: “It is a fact that some farmers in the cull areas have reported a fall in the number of cases of TB and it is also a fact that there has been at least one farm which has been under TB restriction for more than ten years that has now gone clear of the disease.
“We have always been clear, however, that at this stage this is anecdotal evidence that the culls are having an impact on disease level.
“We need to allow the pilot culls to be completed and the results to be analysed. We have always recognised that it will be a number of years after their completion before full scientific evidence is available to show the positive impact the culls have had on bTB in cattle in the two areas.”