Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today defended the controversial plan for a badger cull to tackle bovine TB, warning the disease would cost the taxpayer £1 billion unless action was taken.
The disease imposed a “shattering emotional and financial cost” on farmers and rural communities and it was essential to take every possible step to deal with the reservoir of the disease in the badger population, the north Shropshire MP said.
Addressing the Conservative party conference, he said wind farms should only be allowed where they were acceptable to the local community and promised his department would make it “as simple as possible” for shale gas projects to go ahead.
In his keynote speech he encouraged people to support British farmers in the same way they got behind Team GB’s Olympic sport stars – by buying locally produced food.
But the main threat to cattle farmers was from bovine TB, he said, telling the conference that 26,000 cattle were slaughtered last year at a cost to the taxpayer of £100 million, due to the disease.
That cost would rise to £1 billion over the next decade “if we don’t take action”, he said. “Let’s be clear. This will only get worse if we continue the cowardly policy of inaction pursued by Labour in government. Let me tell you, there is no easy solution.”