DEFRA'S promised prompt response to a public consultation on culling badgers to reduce the potential damage caused by bovine TB among English cattle herds is long overdue according to a leading organisation representing the beef industry.
War of words erupts over badger cull
Four months on from the close of the consultation and the National Beef Association (NBA) says it is fearful of the long term implications of further inaction against the spread of the disease.
"Cattle farmers have been patiently waiting for a Defra decision on widespread, and intensive, badger culling in England which they see as essential to the stifling, and then elimination, of this badly managed epidemic," said NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.
The organisation is angry over the delays and fears that as time passes the government will increasingly move away from a large scale cull and towards a stricter testing regime for cattle.
"Defra is already treading on glass and will cut its feet badly if it lets farmers down over the introduction of badger controls and takes the easy way out by deciding that an attack through cattle to cattle transmission will be the only prevention route," continued Mr Burrell.
"If Defra back-pedals now it not only risks losing essential farmer cooperation for further adoption of its Animal Health and Welfare Strategy plan but also jeopardises the success of future partnership schemes aimed at cost reduction and management effectiveness in the disease control arena."
Mr Burrell's outspoken support of the proposed badger cull has been met with anger and dismay by the Badger Trust which described the comments as "cynical threats".
Trevor Lawson, Badger Trust spokesman, said: "This is a disappointing and deeply cynical threat. Is Mr Burrell really suggesting that his members will deny their animals the best standards of health and welfare in order to make a political point?
Defra is already treading on glass and will cut its feet badly if it lets farmers down over the introduction of badger controls
Duff Burrell - NBA chairman
"Tax payers, who subsidise his industry, will be appalled. Threats like these will not win farmers any support.
"The NBA has to show some maturity over the TB issue. Badger culling is simply not feasible as a means to control TB.
"Rather than arguing about badgers, farmers should be forming alliances with us and other concerned organisations to put pressure on Defra to fully fund a comprehensive testing regime to control TB."
The Badger Trust believes that more targeted testing prior to the movement of cattle can halt the spread of the notifiable disease. The Trust recently accused the National Farmers Union of being "mired in confusion" over its approach to combating the disease.
I am currently studying this debate as we speak! From all the scientific journals I have read so far (quite a lot!), it seems that badger culling deffinately does not work locally, in fact it has the opposite effect. A wide spread cull does work but is not sustainable or economical and as it is the tax payer that has to pay, economics play an important part.
It has been suggested by several scientists that the improvement of animal management and husbandry/stockmanship can in its own right play an important and significant role in the control of bTB. Maybe more money should be invested in developing a vaccine, this seems the way forward for everyone concerned.
Vicky Ellis - > Graveney