Defra Secretary George Eustice has defended the Government’s intention to phase out badger culling in England, despite the policy having more than halved disease incidence rates.
He was challenged at last week’s online NFU conference over Defra’s intention to put greater emphasis on cattle and badger vaccination when there was little evidence to show vaccination worked.
He told conference delegates: “[Badger culling] does lead to a reduction in the incidence of the disease, of between 35-60 per cent, but it does not eliminate bTB altogether on its own as a measure.
“That is why we need a wide package of other measures as well and why getting the cattle vaccine is going to be so important.”
Labour has consistently pledged to end the policy if it ever formed a Government, but its leader hinted that may change in the future.
Sir Keir Starmer, who also addressed the conference, said Labour would ‘use data to make robust decisions’.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “There is not a country in the world which has eradicated bTB without addressing both dynamics in cattle and wildlife.
“We are keen to work with Labour on what this policy would look like, sticking with science and evidence.
“It is a travesty how much this issue has been politicised.”
Later, when asked specifically by Farmers Guardian to comment on data which showed badger culling was having a positive impact on disease rates, Sir Keir said Shadow Defra Secretary Luke Pollard would be reviewing all the Labour Party’s policy and priorities going forward.