Pilot areas confirmed

Published on Thursday, 19 January 2012 10:56
Posted by Scott Buckler

Landowners and farmers from two carefully-selected areas are now able to apply for licences to pilot new measures designed to tackle the devastating impact of bovine TB, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has confirmed

The disease forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in 2010 alone and will cost taxpayers around £1 billion over the next ten years if not effectively dealt with.

Two areas in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset have been selected, from a shortlist proposed by the farming industry, as the most suitable to pilot controlled shooting of badgers. This forms part of a science-led and closely monitored policy to bring bovine TB under control.

Jim Paice said:

“Bovine TB is a chronic and devastating disease. It causes the slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle each year, and is taking a terrible toll on our farmers and rural communities.

“Nobody wants to cull badgers. But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too.

“These two pilots are just part of a wide range of activity on bovine TB. We already have robust measures to control its spread amongst cattle, which we plan to strengthen further, and are continuing to work hard on the development of practical and usable vaccines.

“Natural England will now assess applications against a set of strict criteria. If these are not met, licences will not be granted.”

The pilots will allow the careful examination of how safe, humane and effective controlled shooting is and were announced, after public consultation on better tackling bovine TB, in December last year.

Farmers and landowners in these areas are now able to apply to Natural England as a group for a licence to take part. Their applications will then be assessed against strict criteria before a decision is taken on whether to issue a licence.

The criteria include:

 

  • The individuals taking part must be able to demonstrate a high level of competence in marksmanship, and then successfully complete a Government approved training course;
  • All participating farmers must comply with all the Government’s TB cattle controls;
  • Biosecurity measures to minimise the spread of bovine TB between cattle, and minimise badgers interacting with cattle, must be implemented by participating farmers;
  • There must be a high incidence of TB already present in cattle and the area must be at least 150km2 with access to at least 70% of it; and
  • Participants must take reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of badgers with TB relocating or spreading bovine TB to areas surrounding the culled area. These could include natural barriers that help stop the movement of badgers – like coastline, rivers and major roads – or vaccination of badgers in the surrounding areas before the pilots begin.


Jim Paice also stated that the Chair of the independent panel of experts will be Professor Christopher Wathes, who will have the important role of overseeing the monitoring and evaluation of the pilot areas. Professor Wathes is a Professor of Animal Welfare at the Royal Veterinary College and the current chair of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC). Other panel members will be appointed shortly.

Professor Wathes said:

“Badger culling is a very sensitive issue which is why this group will be completely independent in the work they conduct. I will be joined by a selection of experts from a range of disciplines and our job will be to carefully consider the design and conduct of the pilots to enable a thorough examination of the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of the culling method being used.”

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