Letter: Slaughter of badgers in bid to stamp out TB is step too far

The recent report about Mervin Mullard losing most of his herd to bovine TB (bTB) served as a sad and poignant reminder of the devastation it is causing for farmers up and down the country.

Letter: Slaughter of badgers in bid to stamp out TB is step too far

It is an emotive and complex issue, which makes the government's bungling approach to it all the more difficult to understand.

In 2007 a team of Government appointed scientists recommended, after 10 years of research and the experimental culling of 11,000 badgers, that badgers should be vaccinated. The vaccine can be administered in food and has proved effective in tests. Six years on and the poor farmers are still waiting for it.

Instead of urgently pushing the rollout of it (remember how quickly the vaccine for swine flu hit the shelves when that epidemic struck?), David Cameron has gone for the big political gesture.

Sweeping the scientific evidence and the £50 million that it cost under the carpet, he has sanctioned the pilot culls now taking place in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. Here, 70 per cent of all badgers will be killed regardless of whether they are sick or not.

It doesn't take a genius to see that when the pilots conclude, all the success boxes will be ticked, we will have learned nothing from the mass slaughter and the government will give the nod for it to be rolled out across the country, due in Shropshire in 2014. What then? Other mammals can catch and spread bTB – pigs, deer, foxes, domestic cats and dogs. Is the government going to cull them too?

Please Owen Patterson, think again. This year's State of Nature in the UK report (which is scientifically based) stated that '60 per cent of the species studied have declined over recent decades.

Do you seriously want your legacy as Environment Secretary to be that you have sanctioned the slaughter of 70 per cent of one of our indigenous species, regardless of whether they are sick or not? I know I wouldn't.

Rosemary Newton, Oswestry

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