Home > Environment, Government, News of the moment > Tempers rising over UK badger cull as farmers confront activists.

Tempers rising over UK badger cull as farmers confront activists.

By   29th September 2012.

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As saboteurs mobilise and signatures on the e-petition of rock star Brian May soar, tensions are running high over plans to eradicate bovine TB in a shooting campaign – a policy which a government adviser has branded ‘crazy’.

Badger Cub
One farmer says: ‘We all want the same thing in the end, healthy cattle and healthy badgers. But this polarisation is worrying.’ Photograph: Steve & Ann Toon/Corbis

Wet noses are leaving trails on his fleece, cows snuffling on one sleeve and Stig the border collie on the other. Ankle-deep in mud on his beef cattle farm near Stratford-upon-Avon, Adam Quinney doesn’t hunt, fish or shoot and shakes his head at the idea he is fired up with “bloodlust”. He lost 18 of his 70 cattle a year ago, one of the 24% of farms in the southwest of England to find their herds infected with bovine TB, a disease which not only costs stock but also puts the whole farm into shutdown, escalating costs just as income dives.

He has heard all the arguments, read the science, personally debated with rock guitarist Brian May, and accepts many of the points put forward by the badger lobby: “We shouldn’t have got to this point; we should have culled years ago and we wouldn’t have TB. We all want the same thing in the end, healthy cattle and healthy badgers. But this polarisation is worrying. A lot of people have no knowledge and no understanding and they’re getting fired up.

“We’ve had the activists talking about coming on with fireworks and dogs, but if they scare the badgers, will they return to their setts or move on? They could be walking through badger latrines carrying the TB themselves. What about bio-security?”

As vice-president of the National Farmers Union, Quinney helped set the boundaries for the Gloucestershire pilot cull area, which was given its licence last Monday. He sees a cull as only part of the solution. The lack of an organised plan to tackle bovine TB is what the majority of farmers are fed up with, he says.

“We need a complete programme, not a pick and mix. Farmers were promised a vaccine. Each year for 20 years we have been told there is a vaccine just a few years away and have been sold a pup. We shouldn’t have got to this point. Bovine TB is hardly a new disease.”

Last year he invited volunteers from the Badger Trust on to his land and for four weeks they tried to trap and vaccinate badgers against TB. They managed to vaccinate just one of them. “I felt desperately sorry for them – they were out every night,” Quinney says. “I can’t even estimate the effort and money they put in and was disappointed on their behalf as much as mine.

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