Looking to win support for alternative to badger cull
A FARMERS' group that opposes the trial cull of badgers is using the postponement of the culling to launch a recruiting campaign.
With the six-week pilot culls in West Somerset and Gloucestershire put off until next May, the Badger Welfare Association (BWA) is appealing to cattle farmers to join up.
It is campaigning for an alternative approach to fighting bovine TB, which caused the deaths of 26,000 cattle last year, and says that only if it can show it has widespread backing from the farming community will politicians start to take it seriously.
The recruitment drive comes as the BWA's founder, dairy farmer Derek Mead, warns of a storm of new TB cases this winter.
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The BWA, established in August under the slogan "Healthy badgers, healthy cattle" aims to pursue an alternative approach to tacking the bovine TB epidemic, claiming the pilot culls of 70 per cent of badgers in the hotspot areas are flawed.
It said they risked turning the public against farmers because they will inevitably lead to healthy, as well as sick and infected badgers, being killed.
The group is instead calling for a targeted cull aimed only at setts which are probably infected, and says it can equip farmers with the necessary field craft to identify them.
It wants the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to carry out a properly supervised trial of its methods so their effectiveness can be assessed.
Mr Mead said the group had no doubt its system was effective. He explained: "We have an expert who has years of experience in identifying setts where there are infected badgers, and he is ready to pass on his skills to others. Because he is a farmer and not a scientist, Defra is most unlikely to take him, or us, seriously.
"On the other hand, if we could show we had a significant degree of support from the farming community there is a chance that we could persuade politicians that our alternative method was worth a trial, at the very least."
Mr Mead warned of an impending explosion of TB cases this winter.
He said: "Conditions below ground are so damp they are ideal for TB to flourish."