Six thousand sign petition against NI budger cull

Almost six thousand people have so far signed a petition opposed to a controversial cull of badgers in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Farming Union says the move is necessary to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis which is leading to the slaughter of thousands of cattle. The problem is costing the taxpayer forty million pounds each year.Badgers are a protected species in Northern Ireland. But badgers are - according to farmers - responsible in part for the spread of bovine tuberculosis and they're calling for a cull in infected areas. Victor Chestnutt, President of the Ulster Farmer's Union said, ''What we're looking for is not an indiscriminate cull of badgers, we're looking for those badgers in those hotspot areas which will undoubtedly be diseased to be dealt with. There's not point of cntinuing what we're doing. It's ludicrous to tackle 50 per cent of the problem - in the cattle and not tackle the other 50 per cent in the badgers.'' Jonathan Carson , a dairy farmer added, ''We lost a whole herd last year. We got them built up again. We're startng to lose these cattle again. We're down a quarter already and that's a quarter of our income - financially and emotionally seeing them being culled - they look healthy in the field and it can be heartbeaking.'' The USPCA accepts how devastating the disease can be but insists a cull of badgers as proposed is not the way to eradicate it. Brendan Mullan , CEO of the USPCA said, ''We need more effective testing of cattle as the current test is only fifty per cent effective and that leaves infected cattle in the herd and so there's a spiral of reinfection and increased biosecurity on farms. In terms of a wildlife intervention we need to take a proportionate and humane approach which is vaccination led and the humane euthanizing of infected badgers.'' The charity has united with Northern Ireland badger group and Ulster Wildlife to oppose what they've described in their petition as an 'indiscriminate slaughter'. Thousands of people have so far signed it and it's gaining traction. A Non-Selective Cull using controlled shooting as the predominant badger removal method (as in England), paving the way for vaccination, delivered by farmer-led companies. The consulation runs until 10 September. It also includes plans to reduce the compensation farmers receive for the cattle they lose to bovine TB. While this a challenge for the rural community it's one both sides believe all of us should care about.