Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is backing badger cull

New Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is backing a controversial badger cull trial in England despite having owned two of the creatures as pets when he was growing up.

Owen Paterson
Owen Paterson

The North Shropshire MP, whose badgers were called Bessie and Baz, says sentiment should not get in the way of addressing the spread of TB in cattle – which he said has cost the UK £1 billion in the last 10 years.

He said until scientists can develop a vaccine, a cull could be the only way of addressing the issue.

Mr Paterson said last year alone 26,000 cattle succumbed to bovine TB, which is believed to be spread from one species to another by badgers.

Most of those were prematurely sent for slaughter to control the spread of the disease.

Farmers say bovine TB is the biggest threat to the beef and dairy industries and they blame badgers for spreading the disease.

The most recent figures available show that in 2010, some 2,165 Shropshire cattle were slaughtered to control the spread of the disease, compared to 473 in 2003.

Mr Paterson said: “When I was a child I had two pet badgers, so I’m the last person that wants to see any badgers killed unnecessarily.

“Nobody takes pleasure in the idea of a cull, and it’s not something we can take lightly. Badgers are wonderful animals, but last year the spread of bovine TB caused the loss of 26,000 cattle, and the disease has cost Britain £1 billion over the last 10 years, including compensation payments.

“I cannot understand people who want badgers to die of TB - we don’t want to see badgers dying of this horrible disease. We want to see healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle.”

Sarah Gibson, Shropshire Wildlife Trust spokeswoman, said the group believes alternatives to a cull should be explored.

She added: “We are exploring ways of controlling bovine TB and will be starting a five-year badger vaccination programme on one of our nature reserves in the north of the county this autumn. We hope to make a real contribution to solving the problem.”

A trial cull of thousands of badgers will go ahead later this year after the Court of Appeal this week rejected a legal challenge from wildlife supporters.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Comments for: "Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is backing badger cull "

Polly Howes

Quote - I am the last person that wants to see badgers killed unnecessarily

but that is precisely what Owen Paterson is doing - I urge him to read the science.

Alan Petrie

I am thoroughly disgusted by this forthcoming badger cull.

I no long drink cows milk and have give up beef because of the attitude of the farmers who want to participate in the cull. I also only shop at Co op as they are the only supermarket who said they would not support the cull.

This cull is wrong on every level and I will back any means necessary to stop or disrupt it if necessary.

81% of the population is against the cull so why is the government not listening. This is not democracy, it is dictatorship. Why should a few rogue farmers get their way against so many?

It is all very well saying our farmers are valued but what about the badgers. We seem to be the only voice of reason in all this mess.

Valerie Russell

Culling badgers will not stop BTB and evidence suggests that it may make the problem worse.

It is typical of this government and the way they want to get rid of everything.

Our wildlife is struggling with bad weather, loss of hahitat, pesticides, road traffic-the list goes on.

I believe our wildlife is some of the most beautiful in the world and yet we are going to wipe out huge numbers of it,

Valerie Russell


Badger culling is "ineffective", the expert behind the UK's biggest review of the links between badgers and tuberculosis in cattle, said on Monday.

Professor Lord John Krebs was the government adviser responsible for the scientific review in the 1990s which found that badgers were a "reservoir" of bovine TB and could transmit the disease to cattle. He called for trial culls, which were then carried out. But he said on Monday the results of the trials showed that culling was "not an effective policy" and would be a mistake."


We need 100,000 people to sign now. Please share, tell your friends and sign. We need your help. There are 65,000 people who reach 1.5m friends so please share and sign NOW



Amanda Barrett

It is disingenuous to accuse people who are against further culling of acting out of sentiment when they are actually supporting the evidence provided back in 2007 by the Government's own scientists at a cost of £49 million (perhaps even as high as £100 million) to the taxpayer. To remind Mr Patterson of the conclusions of that study which was supported by the Bow Group earlier this year: the scientists agreed overwhelmingly that FURTHER CULLING WILL NOT WORK and urged the Government to explore the alternative avenues proposed by the same study back in 2007. Two questions to Mr Patterson: does he perhaps have a closed mind to exploring vaccination as a strategy? And does he not feel his support of the current policy is at odds with the Government's own White Paper published in 2011 - Putting Natural Capital at the heart of the Green Economy? I would strongly suggest his department works hard at establishing the total economic value of badgers i.e. the combined value that ALL sections of society place on badgers. Could he tell me when he intends to do this because, obviously, this needs to be done before any culling takes place. However, it is a touching insight into Mr Patterson's character that he loves badgers - how cute. And he is prepared to cull untold numbers knowing that it is pointless .... an insight into his character, indeed.

Lizzie Down

Mr Paterson is a truly odious, wildlife-hating individual, all this rubbish about "pet" badgers is insulting; we have not forgotten it was he who likened those opposed to fox hunting to "Nazis". I am opposed to the cull on the grounds of the government's own scientific evidence which tells us it will not work and actually make things worse, animal welfare - free shooting means that many badgers will not be killed but badly injured, and recognising how much harm this will ultimately do to those in the farming industry when this properly comes to the attention of the masses.

Badgers are actually not thought to contribute all that significantly to bTB, at least 80% of transmission is thought to be cow to cow and a cull would save less than 1% of the British herd being culled because of bTB. Not forgetting that farm animals are bred with the knowledge that one day they will killed for meat or when they can no longer produce milk, is that a fair swap for 130,000 badgers?

Farmers have for years unnecessarily traipsed animals up and down the country to shows and sales but accept vitually no responsibility for the situation. The answer to the problem lies within industry reform and with scientific controls such as vaccination, not by declaring war on our wildlife at the will of a few repugnant blood thirsty Tories.

Claire McGuffie

The culling of badgers is an inappropriate, ineffective and cruel plan regarding the problem of bovine TB ( which I accept must be a serious concern for some dairy farmers). It does not offer any sort of solution. I won't re-rehearse the arguments against the cull except to say I support them.

What is needed is more research into effective vaccination projects and better cattle management. Surely it can only be a minority of farmers who support killing badgers as opposed to the development of humane solutions.

soo wick

A boy with two pet badgers, I would love to hear that story Mr Paterson, did you cuddle them !!!! Badgers are not pets, jaws and claws like steel.

This is not about science or farmers and certainly not badgers. It is about money and power.

Please sign the petition, add your voice for the badger


The only thing that shines out on these posts is that people put one animal above others regardless of the implications . Apply this to humans and it's called racism .

Wendy McCleave

When are these people who are victimising innocent wild animals wise up to the fact that badgers have been a part of our countryside for a long time and that badgers and cattle had been co-existing for years before Bovine TB became the problem it is today.

There is a lot of research to indicate that badgers are suffering because their immune systems have been weakened by the herbicides and pesticides we pour onto the land, the leaching of minerals from the soils as a result of intensive framing and grazing and a diet too rich in the maize that is now grown and which they will eat despite the fact that it doesn't provide sufficient nutrition for them. Putting down minderal blocks and reducing the amount of maize grown or inter-cropping has been shown significantly to increase their immune systems and reduce the problem. Some brave and humane farmers have already tried this with success. Let them speak up please.

We also have to look at the ways that cattle are kept especially in winter and transported, both of which provide a hot-bed for the transmission of germs and disease.

Stop making our wild-life the scapegoat for our own bad husbandry practices and, for God's sake, do not kill huge numbers of a sentient species because you are not willing for financial or expedient reasons to try the humane alternative that science and history recommend and which is already being carried out to good effect in Wales where they LISTENED to the advice of scientists and vets.

Things like this make me ashamed to be human.


Wendy who is the "we will have to look at the way cattle are kept in winter and transport"

Will it be Brian May or Jack Reedy or some other expert, cows are tested recorded and if necessary slaughtered on a regular basis (30,000 slaughtered last year alone) .Badger WILL NOT have id chips or management tags put in when vaccinated so how can you tell if it's been jabbed before. Alas vaccine doesn't work on an infected badger either so that's a waste of time too , the whole cull debate is a waste of time because the results will be useless due to civil disruption because of well meaning but misguided people . Animal rights have stated the farmers names ,address and phone numbers all will be targeted hinting at violence , so again what is the point of it all . Desperate farmers are left paying for all the costs wondering why only cows are murdered and badgers who do carry/suffer from the disease are left alone to wander around closed herds (no purchased animals) who go on to suffer an outbreak of tb. Maize became popular in cow feed but the downside led to badger population explosion year on year, if you saw a live badger in the early eighties it was really something now they are as common as rats.

Try our beta site!

We’re getting ready to launch our brand new website for shropshirestar.com and we’d like to give you a sneak preview.

We’re still applying the finishing touches, so please bear with us if something’s not quite right.

We'd love to hear your thoughts, good or bad, via the simple feedback button that you'll see to the right side of every page.

Try the beta