Defra ponders badger contraception

Salisbury Journal: Defra is exploring contraception for badgers as a way of keeping numbers down Defra is exploring contraception for badgers as a way of keeping numbers down

Contraception for badgers is set to be included in the Government's blueprint to eradicate bovine t uberculosis in cattle, an environment minister has said.

George Eustice drew laughs in the Commons as he told MPs the final version of the strategy will include looking at birth control to limit population numbers.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) had previously confirmed it was researching the use of an injectable contraceptive.

TB vaccines for badgers and cattle remain in the strategy after draft proposals were put out to consultation last summer, Mr Eustice said.

Badger cull trials have been carried out although Environment Secretary Owen Paterson previously insisted the animal had ''moved the goalposts'' and made a cull more difficult.

Mr Paterson has also previously suggested gassing badgers is a possibility but only if evidence could prove it was humane and effective .

Speaking during Defra questions, Liberal Democrat Andrew George (St Ives) asked if the Government accepted it needed a plan B to deal with TB.

Mr Eustice replied: " Well, I'd simply point out to you that we published a draft TB eradication strategy at the end of last summer.

"We will shortly be publishing the final version of that TB strategy and it does indeed accept that there is a range of measures we should pursue here, including developing vaccines - we are doing some work to try to develop an oral vaccine for badgers including cattle vaccines - and also even looking at other areas such as contraception for badgers and increased cattle movement controls.

"So there's a whole range of different issues that we are looking at to try to solve this difficult problem."

Mr George had asked: "Even if the independent expert panel concludes that the Government's policy is effective, which is highly unlikely, I have to say, do you not accept that the Government does need to be looking at alternatives - a plan B - which includes the vaccination of badgers, which they need to get behind, as well as of course moving forward as quickly as we can with cattle?"

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