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NFU to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in pursuit to overturn Derbyshire badger cull no-go

It came as Natural England introduced 11 new areas for badger control licences, taking the total number of cull zones up to 43 in the high risk and edge areas of England. 

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NFU to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in pursuit to overturn Derbyshire badger cull no-go

NFU chiefs said they would ‘leave no stone unturned’ in their pursuit to overturn Defra’s last-minute decision to pull the plug on badger culling in Derbyshire just days before the operation was due to start.

 

Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers made the surprise announcement last week, saying she wanted to ‘further consider’ the relationship between culling and vaccination in the edge area.

 

It came as Natural England introduced 11 new areas for badger control licences, taking the total number of cull zones up to 43 in the high risk and edge areas of England.

 

It is believed the cull zone spans an area the size of Wales.


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The NFU’s full response:

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “In just six years, our industry has gone from feeling powerless to control this devastating disease to having more than 30 areas licensed to carry out badger culls.

 

“The NFU fought tooth and nail for the Government to introduce this policy, which is science-based and evidence-led, and that will remain the case. But it is farmers that make it work.

 

“The time, effort and expense that goes into these operations is a testament to our sector and I want to say a personal thank you to all those involved.

 

“It is this commitment that has led to the positive impact the culls are having on bovine TB, and I am confident long-awaited analysis of the impact of the first culls will show this even more conclusively.

 

“Against this backdrop, it makes the decision by the Government not to licence culling in Derbyshire absurd.

 

“Culling is proven to work and farmers will be rightly furious and distressed about the decision, as I am too.

 

“The NFU will leave no stone unturned in reviewing all aspects of this decision and how it was made.

 

“For a decision like this to be taken at such a late stage with seemingly no consideration for the impacts it will have on those involved and against all the scientific evidence is reckless.

 

“It should be worrying for us all if politics suddenly begins to trump science and evidence when making vital policy decisions.

 

“I want to make it clear that we will not stand by and I will be making that case to Government in the strongest possible terms.”

The Derbyshire rejection is thought to have followed a last-minute intervention by the Prime Minister’s partner and long-standing opponent of the badger cull, Carrie Symonds, who recently met with Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer.

 

Though she has denied any involvement in the Derbyshire decision, farmers on social media made clear they believed the meeting was inappropriate.

 

NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts assured members the union would ‘leave no stone unturned, both politically and legally’.

 

‘Worrying’

He said: “It should be worrying for us all if politics trumps science and evidence when making vital policy decisions.

 

“I want to make it clear we will not stand by and I will be making that case to Government in the strongest possible terms.”

 

On Monday (September 9), Ms Villiers told MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee culling would continue to be part of the Government’s TB strategy, despite refusing to explain why she had put a stop to the Derbyshire cull so abruptly when the vaccination programme there had been in place for two years.

 

She said she ‘regretted’ the short notice farmers and cull companies had been given, and suggested they could be eligible for some kind of compensation.

 

The news came as figures surfaced from a Freedom of Information request to Government which appeared to show the number of new herds with TB in Gloucestershire increased from 10 in 2017 to 23 in 2018.

 

But Gloucestershire vet Roger Blowey, who has been TB testing cattle for 50 years, said the figures, based on just one year of change, did not paint a true picture.

 

“What should be done is to compare what happened in the cull area to what happened in surrounding non-cull areas,” he said.

 

“This was done by Lucy Brunton and others [in a 2017 study], and they found a 58 per cent reduction in the Gloucestershire cull zone compared to surrounding non-cull zones.

 

“Mr Dyer and others consistently fail to refer to this paper.”

 

New figures released by Defra show the benefit of badger culling in England at between £420,000 and £2.85 million per area over 11 years, with a central estimate of £1.75 million.


Over 42 cull areas this would total £73.5m.

 

In its ‘Badger control policy: value for money analysis 2019’ report, the department estimated the future costs to Government at about £500,000 per area over four years.

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