Farmers furious over badger cull veto

Farmers have reacted angrily to the announcement that the government will not sanction a badger cull in the fight against bovine TB.

The ministerial decision regarding badger culls was leaked to the press last week and, in a statement released on 7 July, Defra confirmed that no such cull would be allowed.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn says that, instead, the government will invest £20 million into developing vaccines. Benn said: "Having listened carefully to a wide range of views from scientists, farming, veterinary and wildlife organisations, and many others, and having considered all the evidence, I have decided that while such a cull might work, it might also not work.

"It could end up making the disease worse if it was not sustained over time or delivered effectively, and public opposition, including the unwillingness of some landowners to take part, would render this more difficult."

NFU president Peter Kendall has roundly denounced the decision, pointing out that Benn admitted that a cull 'might work' in his statement to the House of Commons. Kendall said: "This is a disgraceful abdication of responsibility by secretary of state Hilary Benn.

"Despite his promise to base his decision on the facts, he has ignored the scientific evidence of the ISG report, the recommendation of the EFRA select committee and that of Professor Sir David King, in reaching his conclusion. It is a total non-decision.

"To admit that a cull might work, and then push the already crippling burden of TB controls further on to the farming industry is just plain wrong. It is ridiculous to expect farmers to continue fighting TB with one hand tied behind their back.

"While we support and welcome the development of vaccines for both cattle and badgers, to suggest this is the answer for an industry being decimated by TB in hotspot areas is no kind of answer at all.

"For many farmers, the 'medium- to long-term' answer of badger vaccines, to which the secretary of state refers, will simply be too long in coming.

"At a time when we have the Prime Minister telling the public not to waste food, it is astonishing the government is prepared to continue to preside over the needless waste of tens of thousands of productive cattle."

Kendall announced an immediate withdrawal from current Defra policy discussions on responsibility and cost-sharing, and pledged to fight any attempt by government to transfer existing costs to the industry, or establish a disease levy.

"We will also be seeking the support of the rest of the livestock industry in resisting these measures, while government is not addressing the full cost of TB," he said.

The NFU has said it will legally challenge the government's decision through the courts.