January 4, 2006

British Farmers Say Badger Cull Inevitable

OXFORD -- Britain is set to cull badgers in a bid to tackle bovine tuberculosis despite opposition from wildlife groups, Tim Bennett, president of the National Farmers' Union, said on Wednesday.

"That (a badger cull) is not a debate. Frankly this is going to happen," Bennett told reporters at a news conference held at the annual Oxford Farming Conference.

Last month the British government announced it was holding a consultation about whether to cull badgers in a bid to control the spread of the disease and about what methods might be used.

The consultation is due to end in mid-March and Bennett said he favored starting a cull in May.

Badgers are a wildlife host of bovine TB but their role in its spread is controversial.

Rates of the disease among UK cattle have risen sharply in recent years.

The government has also announced it is imposing pre-movement testing on cattle in another measure aimed at slowing the spread of the disease.

"Farmers patience is completely exhausted. They will not accept pre-movement testing unless there is a cull," Bennett said.

UK farming minister Lord Bach said the issue posed difficulties for the government.

Wildlife groups such as the Badger Trust have been campaigning against a cull.

"None of this is comfortable at all," the minister told reporters.