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Following a meeting with local dairy farmers at the House of Commons, Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff has described as “inexplicable" the Government's decision to ignore calls for a targeted cull of badgers in an attempt to eradicated TB in cattle.

"Why is it alright to kill thousands of productive dairy cows who have the disease or who react to the test for it, but not alright to kill the badgers that are at least a major part of the problem? I know people like badgers, but they are not an endangered species, and killing those who are suffering from TB is an act of mercy, not cruelty."

Earlier in the month, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn MP ruled out a cull, previously recommended by the Government's science chief, Sir David King. Speaking in the Commons, Mr. Benn said:

"Having listened carefully to a wide range of views from scientists, farming, veterinary and wildlife organisations, and many others, and having considered all the evidence, I have decided that while such a cull might work, it might also not work. I do not think it would be right to take this risk"

In place of a cull, Benn announced that £20 million would be invested over the next three years in developing usable cattle and badger vaccines. It was later revealed that £10 million pounds of this sum had already been committed.

Commenting Peter said,

"The Government are acting like cowards. They recognise the importance that a targeted badger cull would have in tackling the very real problem of Bovine TB, yet they are not prepared to do anything. We've been talking about vaccine for years and years - of course it's the right long-term answer, but something has to be done now if we want to save the UK milk and dairy industry.

"The threat of bovine TB is an ever present nightmare for Worcestershire's farmers. Infected cattle are quite rightly destroyed to prevent TB spreading further, yet suffering, infected badgers are allowed to roam the fields.

"This is a time for courage - for ministers to explain the truth, rather than to pander to understandable but misguided sentimentality. I know badgers are only part of the problem, but they are a big part. Ill badgers make cows ill and ill badgers are in a wretched condition themselves.

"The Government has once again put its own popularity with its urban voters ahead of the real needs of farmers and rural communities, and, perhaps more worryingly still, ahead of the need to maintain out nation's food security at a time of growing concern about food availability and prices."

"I support the conclusion of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which was shared by the former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King and supported by the results of the Independent Scientific Group: that under certain well-defined circumstances the removal of badgers could make a contribution towards the reduction in incidence of cattle TB in hot spot areas. However, any such measures should only be used in conjunction with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which would provide the opportunity to distinguish between setts which hold infected badgers and those which do not. Not only would such an approach bear down on TB in cattle, it would serve to end the unnecessary suffering of sick badgers.

"The Government has acknowledged that PCR could be used to identify areas such as setts where TB is present - therefore enabling a cull to be targeted and minimised - but has admitted that a validated test is not likely to be available in the short term. Similar to the BCG vaccination, PCR (as a diagnostic tool) has been in use for some years in the NHS, but the Government has been unacceptably slow to recognise its potential for use on wildlife.

"On current projections TB will account for 40,000 cattle this year and over £300 million per annum to the public purse by 2012/13. No Government should accept these costs - this waste - whilst effectively wringing its hands and doing nothing. But that is exactly what the Government has just done."


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