Hundreds of thousands of people saw a powerful case for the control of badgers as part of the battle to control bovine TB when Minette Batters wrote in The Times newspaper today.
The NFU Deputy President contributed to the Thunderer column.
'From the many farmers I meet, I know that bovine TB continues to devastate family farming businesses across large parts of the country. Last year more than 4,700 herds that had been clear of the disease were affected by it. More than 33,000 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered because of it.
'So it is vital for the future of our beef and dairy sectors that we do everything we can to tackle it. And that includes culling badgers that carry the disease.
'No one has ever said culling badgers alone will wipe out bovine TB. No one has ever said that badger culling should be carried out all over the country. But we farmers have always said that killing badgers must be an option in areas where the disease is endemic if we are ever going to wipe it out. The experience of other countries shows that when the disease is dealt with in the wildlife “host” at the same time as the cattle, it can be beaten.
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'George Eustice, the farming minister, claimed this week that, in line with expert advice on the culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, shooting free-running badgers could be done “safely, humanely and effectively”. This runs counter to the advice of the British Veterinary Association. But he is right. Controlled shooting is routinely used to control wildlife species like deer, foxes and rabbits, so it should apply to badgers too. They are not a special case.
'Farmers care passionately about welfare, so it’s crucial that culling is carried out to a high standard. Vaccination is sadly not an option for badgers that are infected with bTB, but as farmers we remain supportive of vaccination in areas where the disease is not endemic in badgers.
'Let’s not pretend that badgers are an endangered species. In fact around 50,000 are killed each year in road accidents. This fight, though, is not about demonising badgers; it is about tackling a deadly disease. And that means rolling out the culling programme to other areas where bTB is rife if we are ever going to get on top of it.
'The 25-year plan to eradicate bovine TB, published a year ago, is the first comprehensive strategy of its kind for England. Whatever those who want to protect badgers may say, this plan is the best chance we have of wiping out this devastating disease. And shooting has to be one of the methods available to us.'