In a dramatic policy U turn the Government is set to approve the regional culling of badgers to help reduce the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.
In a report sent to ministers, which remained a closely guarded secret until its publication, the chief scientific adviser – Sir David King – is calling for a badger cull in areas such as the South West where there is a “high and persistent incidence” of the disease.
The new thinking has been welcomed by Anthony Gibson of the National Farmers Union. He said Sir David’s report was simple common sense –
“Trying to stop bovine TB without a badger cull is like trying to deal with foot and mouth without repairing the leaking pipe at Pirbright. Whatever the difficulties of badger culls, something has to be done.”
The King report challenges the conclusions of a ten-year study, chaired by Prof John Bourne, which concluded earlier this year that culling badgers would be ineffective in controlling the spread of the disease. It was met with fury by farmers who point to Government inaction and say 2007 is the worst year for bovine TB in recent times with an 18 per cent rise in cases to nearly 2,500.