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Protests as badger cull begins
THE Somerset badger cull got under way on Monday night, despite protests from “animal activists”.
In a letter to NFU members, president Peter Kendall said: “This is an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry.
“I know that many of you reading this will have suffered the misery of dealing with bTB on your farms, some of you for decades, and I hope you will now feel something is finally being done to stem the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers. I hope the culls will show a reduction in bTB in cattle, and that more people will understand why they are absolutely necessary.”
About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
They will be shot by trained marksmen.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the infection needed to be dealt with in both badgers and cattle.
He said: “We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.
“If we had a workable vaccine we would use it, but any effective vaccine is at least ten years away, and anyway injecting existing diseased animals is pointless.”
Mr Paterson denied suggestions from anti-cull campaigners that the government was simply trying to appease the farming community.
“In the Republic of Ireland the disease was rocketing until they began to cull, since when there has been a significant reduction in the disease.
“I want to end up with healthy cattle living alongside healthy wildlife.”
But Labour Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said the cull was “not the answer”.
She said: “The government's own figures show it will cost more than it saves and it will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed and spread infection to neighbouring herds.
“We agree with the scientists who say that it has no meaningful contribution to play in tackling bovine TB.”
The RSPCA said it was “saddened”, while anti-cull protesters held a vigil as the pilot began.
It is understood a cull in Gloucestershire will also start this week.
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