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Badgers cull can stop bovine TB spreading to Lancashire
FARMERS in Lancashire have said a cull of badgers is essential to ensure bovine TB does not spread in the county.
Yesterday the Government announced two pilot culls would go ahead in Gloucestershire and Somerset, hotspots for the disease.
The move has led countryside lovers, led by Queen guitarist Brian May, to claim that healthy animals would be left to die in agony and infected badgers would scatter in fear, spreading infection.
However, county farmers have said drastic measures are needed to ensure the disease is contained and warned its spread could be an even worse disaster for the rural community than the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.
Although there have been a handful of TB cases in East Lancashire and Cumbria has experienced recent outbreaks, there are no plans for culls in the region.
Adam Briggs, National Farmers’ Union senior policy officer for the North West, said: “We have been very lucky in Lancashire that we have little or no TB either in the cattle or badger population. The culling in Gloucestershire and South West is about containing TB to those hotspot areas where it is rife.
“If we do that along with tight controls on cattle movements, the disease will not spread to Lancashire. If it did spread to the county it would be devastating for the farming community and wildlife.
“This is not something farmers welcome but is necessary. We hope that a vaccine will be developed eventually that can protect cattle, badgers and other wildlife in TB free areas like Lancashire.”
Joanna Bates-Keegan, chairman of the Lancashire Badger Group, said: “Badger groups across the country are pretty upset about this.
“The feeling is that for the number of badgers that will be killed, it will have a small impact on bTB. Different methodology is being used this time compared to previous culls, but at most, the reduction in bTB is only going to be 16 per cent.
“There’s even a risk it might even increase bTB as shooting could cause badgers to disperse. There are a lot of badgers in Lancashire, but the county is not a hot spot for bTB. Badgers are an iconic animal, and the Government should be looking at vaccinating cattle.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is behind the cull, said: “There are no plans at all to carry out culls anywhere but in the two pilot areas at the moment.”