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Campaigners meet Environment Secretary to challenge badger cull

Members of the Badger Trust spoke to Liz Truss in her London office Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Campaigners fighting to stop the badgers culls in Somerset say they've had a 'constructive' meeting with the Environment Secretary.

Members of the Badger Trust spoke to Liz Truss in her London office, claiming the culls are both costly and ineffective in halting the spread of TB in cattle.

Afterwards they said she had agreed to consider various points about animal welfare and vaccination.

Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive Badger Trust Credit: ITV News

She said the chief veterinary officer still continues to advise her that it is a tool that needs to be used. She made no commitment on extension of the culls at this stage even though we did agree if there were any steps to go forward they'd have to go through proper licencing and consultation processes. She did accept that cattle measures are important, she did accept badger vaccination has a valuable roll to play as well which is a step forward from her predecessor Owen Patterson.

– DOMINIC DYER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BADGER TRUST

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'I would stop the badger cull', says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband, has been on the campaign trail in Gloucestershire Credit: ITV News

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has been on the campaign trail in Gloucestershire, ahead of the General Election.

He took part in a question and answer session at the Subscription Rooms in Stroud.

One of the issues tackled was the badger cull in the county which took place just a few miles away. He promised it would stop under a Labour government.

We are against the cull, we've got to stop it going ahead. I say be guided by the science on this, why not just be guided by the science. And the science is telling us that it isn't the answer.

– Ed Miliband, Labour Leader

Government says badger cull will not eradicate TB until 2038

The Environment Secretary has defended the cull Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The Environment Secretary has told farmers that culling badgers will not get rid of bovine TB in the UK for more than two decades.

The controversial cull in parts of West Somerset and Gloucestershire is part of a range of measures including controls on the movement of cattle and better monitoring.

Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, defended the cull as she spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference. She also promised dairy farmers, the main victims of the bovine TB outbreaks, that the government would target more support at the dairy industry.

“This government is taking action to deal with this disease. This is not something that can be achieved overnight. Our strategy is focused on eradicating it by 2038.

“It is not easy, but we will do the right thing even if the protest groups don’t like it. Our comprehensive strategy involves cattle movement controls, vaccination in the edge areas and culling where the disease is rife.

"We know from the experience in Australia where the disease has been eradicated, and in Ireland and New Zealand where it is being dramatically reduced, that this approach works.”

– Elizabeth Truss, Environment Secretary

Gloucestershire badger cull misses target by over half

Gloucestershire's badger cull this year missed its minimum target by over half. The figures were published today. Just 274 badgers were culled in the second year of the scheme, falling far short of the minimum 615 estimated to be needed to deliver reductions in the disease in livestock.

Somerset exceeded its target by a small number of badgers. 341 were culled, in a required range of 316 to 785.

In both of the pilot areas, a significant proportion were killed by the more expensive cage trapping and shooting method, rather than "controlled shooting" of free-running badgers.

Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle says alternatives to culling need to be considered.

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Maria Eagle Credit: PA

The target set in Gloucestershire has been spectacularly missed whilst the Somerset target was only narrowly reached, meaning that, if anything, these culls will make the problem of bovine TB worse.

The Government must today commit to abandoning any attempt to continue these unscientific, inhumane and ineffective badger culls.

They must instead work with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to get the problem of bovine TB under control.

– Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary

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New plans to combat bovine TB will include culling

New plans to combat bovine TB will include the culling of badgers Credit: PA

Further measures to combat bovine TB have been revealed following the announcement of the results of the second year of badger culls.

An action plan for farmers sets out plans to help reduce the risk of disease spread on their farms. There will be a new service giving farmers within the badger cull areas bespoke veterinary advice on TB management.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss says the new approach will continue to include culling.

During the last parliament bovine TB rates in England soared to the highest in Europe. That is why we taking strong action in pursuing our comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, vaccinations and culling.

The Chief Vet’s advice is that results of this year’s cull in Somerset show they can be effective. That is why I am determined to continue with a comprehensive Strategy that includes culling.

– Elizabeth Truss, Environment Secretary

There are also plans for a consultation on tougher measures for transporting cattle. An online map will show high and low risk areas. The Government has awarded £50,000 in small grants to livestock markets to help them introduce checking systems.

Independently audited results of the badger culls show cull figures for the year, and says that levels of humaneness and a high standard of public safety were maintained. In Somerset the target was exceeded.

  • 341 badgers removed in Somerset
  • 274 badgers removed in Gloucestershire

Only two arrested during this years' badger cull

Gloucestershire Police regard their reponse to the badger cull as a success Credit: PA

Gloucestershire Police are regarding their response to this years' badger cull as a success.

Operation Themis focussed on community policing as opposed to public order policing, like last year. Officers found that most people were co-operative and courteous because of this style of policing.

In 2013, the first year of the cull, 38 people were arrested. This year two were arrested and one was served a court summons.

We would like to thank everyone involved and directly affected by the badger cull for their help and understanding during what could be a very difficult time. Those directly involved or indirectly involved in the cull were helpful, co-operative and courteous to our officers. Their positive conduct was reflected by the fact that very few criminal incidents took place during the whole 6 week cull period.

– Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry

DEFRA defends cost of badger cull

DEFRA has defended the high cost of last year's badger culls Credit: PA

It's been revealed that last year's badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire cost taxpayers £6.3 million - an average of £3,350 for every animal killed.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs has justified the figures.

England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe. The cost of the badger culls need to be seen in the context of the devastating scale of the threat bovine TB poses to our farming industry and food security - £500 million over the last decade. Doing nothing is not an option.

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling.

Many of the costs associated with the pilot culls last year were one-offs and have not been repeated this year.

– Defra spokesperson

It adds that the costs were largely due to ensuring the pilot culls were rigorously monitored for safety and humaneness to provide robust data for the Independent Expert Panel to assess.

The cost of last year's badger cull is revealed

Each badger killed during the culls cost more than £3,000 Credit: PA

It's been revealed that last year's badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire cost taxpayers an average of £3,350 for every animal killed.

1,879 animals were killed in the pilot culls - 955 badgers in Somerset and 924 in Gloucestershire. The cullings are aimed at stopping the spread of TB in cattle and cost a total of almost £6.3 million according the Government figures.

DEFRA says the costs were high because of the need to monitor the operation for safety and humaneness.

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