In something of a surprise announcement, but true to their election promise, Defra has today (15 September) announced a proposal for consultation regarding the issuing of licences to farmers and landowners who wish to cull badgers on their land and at their own expense.
These licences would be subject to strict licence criteria to ensure badger control is done effectively, humanely and with high regard for animal welfare.
In the official Defra release, Jim Paice – Agriculture Minister – said:
“Bovine TB is having a devastating effect on many farm businesses and families, especially in the West and South West of England. Last year 25,000 cattle were slaughtered because of the disease, and it cost the taxpayer over £63 million in England alone.
“We can’t go on like this. It’s clear that the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread.
“No single measure will be enough to tackle the disease on its own. But the science is clear: there is no doubt that badgers are a significant reservoir for the disease and without taking action to control the disease in them, it will continue to spread. No country in the world has eradicated bovine TB without dealing with the reservoir in wildlife. That’s why I’m today launching a consultation on how we can tackle the disease in badgers.”
“A decision on our approach will be taken following the consultation. I intend to publish a comprehensive and balanced bovine TB eradication programme early in 2011.”
This planned move will be welcomed by farmers, but is likely to prove controversial among animal welfare campaigners. Ministers are braced for legal challenges to the proposal.
The geneal public is virtualy in love with this mammal – think no further than The Wind in the Willows – as summarised by The Daily Telegraph – click here.
Badgers are a protected species and the Labour government abandoned plans for a similar cull amid warnings over its effectiveness.
These badger control licences would be subject to strict criteria to ensure that measures are carried out effectively, humanely, and with high regard to animal welfare. This will include a requirement that any culling must take place over a minimum area of 150km2 so as to be confident that it will have a net beneficial effect. This means licence applications are likely to come from groups of famers and landowners, rather than individuals.
Licences will only permit culling by cage-trapping and shooting, and by shooting free-running badgers, carried out by trained, competent operators with appropriate firearms licences. Defra ruled out gassing and snaring on the basis that we do not have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they are humane and effective methods of culling.
There would certainly seem to be opportunities here for professional pest control contractors, if and when, the cull goes ahead.
The consultation period closes on 8 December 2010. To make a submission click here.