FARMERS in Northampton have welcomed controversial plans to cull thousands of badgers to stop the spread of bovine TB.
The Government yesterday announced its intent to carry out trial culls in two areas in the south-west of the UK to tackle bovine tuberculosis.
The cattle disease, which costs the country £90 million last year, is thought to be spread mainly by badgers.
Richard Hezlet, the regional director for the East Midlands National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said the news came as a huge relief to farmers in Northamptonshire who were concerned about the spread of the disease into the county.
He said: “Bovine TB is just beginning to spread into the county.
“This news is a big relief because it will help arrest the problem in wildlife and in cattle.
“There will be a harsh cull in those two areas, but it will be for the greater good of the county.
“There would be no need to cull badgers in this area but it’s vital that we keep the county free from the disease.
“If it spreads into Northamptonshire it would be devastating for the farmers.
“We have to be lead by science and a cull of this kind would help to stamp out the problem.”
More consultation will be carried out before any mass cull is allowed, but the Government plans to carry out a pilot in two areas.
The Secretary of State said badger control licences would be issued by Natural England under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to enable groups of farmers and landowners to shoot and reduce badger populations at their own expense.
The controversial decision was immediately attacked as a “black day for badgers” by the RSPCA and animal rights protesters are considering a legal challenge.
The cull will be reviewed in 2015 and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insist it intends to get rid of bovine TB in both cattle and badgers through developing a vaccine.
Brockwatch, a voluntary group that protects badgers in Northampton, has previously campaigned against badgers culls.
Steve Jackson, the group’s badger conservation officer, said he would instead like to see the vaccine for badgers improved.