STAFFORDSHIRE farmers, reeling from the scourge of bovine tuberculosis are anxiously awaiting results of the two pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, the county’s NFU chairman has said.
Many Staffordshire farms are currently suffering from the effects of the disease, David Brookes said, and they were agerly anticipating news on the pilot culls’ outcomes.
The Government confirmed last week that the culls, launched to test how an industry-led badger control programme can be delivered effectively, humanely and safely, were under way.
“Bovine tuberculosis is having a devastating impact on livestock farms in Staffordshire and there are hotspot areas,” Mr Brookes said.
“One farmer in East Staffordshire cannot replace stock until he gets a free test and when he restocks there is the risk of going down again.
His stock numbers are depleting, as is his income, and his livelihood is evaporating because of this disease.
“We cannot control bovine TB purely by controlling it within the livestock while there is a reservoir of TB infection in wildlife.
We can deal with deer and other wildlife that become infected but badgers are protected, which necessitated this special licence to go ahead.
“Without controlling the reservoir of TB infection within the wildlife population we will never get on top of controlling bovine TB in cattle.
“As far as vaccination is concerned, if we were to vaccinate the cattle we wouldn’t be able to differentiate between vaccinated and infected cattle. Everything would test positive.
“With vaccinating wildlife we have seen in Wales that it is costing well in excess of £600 per badger to vaccinate.
And even vaccinating the badgers is not going to remove the infection within the badger population - the vaccination doesn’t cure TB.”
The pilot culls have met with fierce opposition from many quarters.
Last month a High Court judge granted the NFU and a number of other claimants in interim injunction to protect farmers in and around the pilot culls from unlawful actions by those opposed to the cull.
NFU President Peter Kendall stressed that the injunction did not prevent legitimate and legal protests, but was to stop those “intent on totally unacceptable incidents of harassment and threats made against a number of farmers and landowners in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset by those opposed to the badger cull”.