Animal-loving Britain split over badger TB cull

Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:26pm EDT
 
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By Alessandra Rizzo

COALEY PEAK (Reuters) - Senseless massacre to some, a necessary evil to others, a plan to cull thousands of wild badgers to stem the spread of tuberculosis in cattle is sharply dividing rural England.

Marksmen could start the cull any day but details are being kept secret for fear of clashes between farmers determined to protect their livestock and livelihoods and activists who have pledged to foil the plan by scaring away the badgers.

Passions are running so high that police leave has been cancelled until the New Year in Gloucestershire, one of two areas in southwestern England where the cull is being piloted, in case violence breaks out.

At issue is how to stem the spread of bovine tuberculosis, which many farmers blame on roaming badgers, while saving a creature that holds a special place in English hearts.

The disease in England has cost the taxpayer some 500 million pounds over the past decade, as farmers were forced to destroy herds made unfit for human consumption.

The debate is a sensitive one in Britain, where the mass slaughter of cattle to control disease in livestock has left deep scars in the farming community and government following "mad cow" and foot-and-mouth outbreaks in the past two decades.

Scientists have found that badgers help spread the disease.

Cull supporters say vaccinating the nocturnal creatures is difficult and costly, although some trials are underway. They argue that shooting badgers is the most efficient way to slow the spread of the disease, which is so acute some farmers have given up rearing cattle altogether.   Continued...

 
A badger walks through woodland near Pickering, northern England in a July 21, 2011 file photo. Senseless massacre to some, a necessary evil to others, a plan to cull thousands of wild badgers to stem the spread of tuberculosis in cattle is sharply dividing rural England. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis/files