SEPTEMBER 16, 2010: The Badger Trust has warned that it is planning a legal challenge to the Coalition’s plans for a badger cull in England.

The Trust said it was ‘closely examining, from both the legal and scientific points of view’ Farming Minister Jim Paice’s proposals to allow licences to be issued to farmers permitting them to cull badgers, which it described as a ‘DIY killing regime’. The charity said it questioned whether the proposals meet the Government’s ‘declared criteria’ for a ‘carefully managed science-led cull’. The Badger Trust, which successfully halted plans for a badger cull in Wales in the courts, said it was ‘extremely concerned’ at the proposal to allow farmers to shoot ‘free-running badgers’. The trust suggested farmers were only pushing for a cull because bovine TB affects their profits and that the annual slaughter of thousands of cattle was relatively insignificant in the wider scheme of things. “The justification for yet another cull lays much stress on the annual slaughter of 25,000 TB-infected cattle but fails to put this in perspective,” the Badger Trust said in a statement. “In fact about 300,000 cattle are killed each year because of such farmyard diseases as mastitis and foot rot as well as thousands of bull calves which are not commercially viable. But Bovine Tuberculosis seriously affects a farm’s profit base. It prevents the lucrative trade in live animals between farms, which is the source of much concern to farmers.” The RSPCA is urging its members to ‘say no to a badger cull in England’, which it claimed would be a ‘recipe for disaster’. It is asking members to oppose the plans by responding to the Defra consultation on the cull proposals, signing a petition and writing to their MP via a special website. RSPCA director of communications David Bowles said: “We remain firmly opposed to any plans for a widespread cull based on current science, welfare concerns and practicality.” He said a previous consultation on a possible badger showed 95 per cent of respondents were opposed. “Now is the time to act. The results of the previous consultation show very clearly that a badger cull is not what people want. It is vital that this new government listens to the same message as the last one. “Scientific evidence has proved culling would have a limited benefit on the disease and in surrounding areas outside the cull it may increase the disease in cattle. “We are also concerned that in these austere times the government may devolve killing badgers to farmers, which would be a recipe for disaster.” He said vaccination combined with more cattle testing, improved biosecurity and stricter cattle movement controls was ‘most likely to be sustainable and effective’ in reducing bTB incidence in cattle.

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