Government commits to badger cull despite Spelman reservations
THE coalition Government has reiterated its commitment to a policy of ‘badger control’ in TB hotspots, despite reservations expressed by the new Defra Secretary earlier this week.
The new regime published its ‘programme for government’ on Thursday (May 20), including a list of policies for Defra, one of which states: “As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis.”
However, in an interview with Farmers Guardian on Tuesday (May 18), new Defra Secretary, Caroline Spelman, indicated there was no guarantee the policy would be delivered, despite a pre-election Tory pledge to implement a badger cull.
Asked if the Tory pledge on a badger cull still held, Ms Spelman said only that she had ‘not closed down any options’.
Mrs Spelman was clear she wanted make up her own mind on the issue and was prepared to take her time in order to develop a ‘science-led policy’.
She said she wanted to monitor the effectiveness of the Welsh pilot badger cull, due to start in north Pembrokeshire this month, before deciding whether to pursue the policy in England.
“In all areas, I must take my time and be properly briefed,” she said, adding that the problem had got much worse since she was last involved in the agricultural industry more than a decade ago.
“The fact that the disease is now much more widely penetrated over a much wider geographical area makes the decision more difficult and more complex.
“I believe in evidence-led policy making and I think we should wait to see how the Welsh get on,” she said.
“I understand absolutely the industry concern but there aren’t easy answers.”
Farming Minister Jim Paice has spent much of the past year developing a badger cull strategy for England in partnership with the industry in preparation for a change of policy once the Tories assumed power.
Mr Paice and Nick Herbert, former Shadow Defra Secretary, frequently reiterated the Tories’ commitment to introducing a badger cull in the run up to the election.
In one interview, Mr Paice told Farmers Guardian “We would hopefully get on with it almost immediately. We cannot go on with the absurd situation where we are killing more and more cattle every year and getting nowhere.”