Published On: Tue, Dec 23rd, 2014

Badger Cull Vital For Preserving Cattle Farms

Cattle farming is a huge part of the agriculture industry and an important part of a farmer’s livelihood. Indeed the concept of cattle farming is almost 6000 years old and is often considered the backbone of the farming industry. In the early stages of the farming industry, the cattle proved useful for both milk and meat. But the industry has developed now to the stage where farmers will often specialise in producing one or the other. It is unclear what farming of the future will be like, but cattle farms will certainly play a massive role still.

Badger Cull

Cattle farms are common and popular in the farming world, and the majority of a farmer’s earnings can often come from cattle. Indeed cattle are vital to the British economy as they provide milk that is one of the biggest selling products across the UK. They are also used for meat that aligns the shelves of the supermarkets. They provide us with essential food sources and as such play an important role in the country.

Many farmers will specialise just in cattle and livestock. They may even visit sites such as to buy equipment. This is important in helping them better rear their cattle. Things such as cattle crushes and feeder wagons play an important role on a cattle farm.

Despite their importance, cattle have had their share of controversy in recent years. BSE is also known as Mad Cow Disease and was present in the UK in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Mad Cow Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that afflicted cattle across the UK. The effects of it resulted in the slaughter of over 4 million cattle.

The disease had also killed 177 humans in the UK by 2009, and it led to the infamous ban on British beef. This lasted a decade and ended in 2006. During the BSE outbreak and the subsequent cattle cull the farming industry suffered a great deal.

In more recent years Bovine tuberculosis, otherwise known as TB, has had an extreme effect on cattle. This is an infectious disease of cattle but is much more common and widespread than the BSE disease.

Over the past few years, farmers have begun to notice a rise in the number of cattle infected with TB. This increase in infection has been largely attributed to badgers. Badgers are well known as carriers of bovine tuberculosis. It has been their presence in and around farmland that has added to increased spread of the disease.

TB can spread from badger to badger, from badger to cattle and from cattle to badger. It is thought that the badgers pass on TB to cattle through their urine, faeces and other such means. It is unclear exactly how large a role badgers are playing in the spread of TB, but it is undeniable that they contribute to the spread.

Tuberculosis can have extreme and serious implications on the agriculture industry. Not to mention the fact that it affects farmers on a personal level as well. It results in the slaughter of many cattle and thus can adversely affect a farmer’s livelihood. If a farmer were to lose even a small percentage of his cattle to TB then this would have implications for him. His business would suffer for the rest of the year. He also may have to deal with quarantining any other cattle who get ill no matter what the sickness.

In 2011, the TB problems in cattle led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle and cost the farming industry over £90 million.

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) support badger culling. According to them, it will reduce the risk of TB infection in cattle. It is thought that this years cull in Somerset will go a long way towards proving the effectiveness of a badger cull. There are debates about the legitimacy of badger culling as an effective form of combatting bovine TB. But the consensus seems to be that in areas with a large badger population culling has and will yield positive results.

Yet there are those opposed to a badger cull. Namely organisations that support wildlife and animals such as Care for the Wild. They claim that an independent panel last year showed that badgers died in an ineffective and inhumane way. There have been calls to halt the badger cull amid fears that some badgers took over 5 minutes to die. Trained marksmen are tasked with shooting badgers when they come out of their setts. This has fueled the controversy that it is like deer shooting.

Looking at it from a farmer’s perspective it is difficult to see another alternative to badger culling. Unfortunately, the spread of bovine TB through cattle farms can be crippling to farmers. It can also have severe ramifications on the agriculture industry and the economy of the UK as a whole.

Had people carried out the cull years ago when they should have then the population of badgers would have been less. Furthermore, the spread of TB would not have been anywhere near as bad as what farmers have to deal with at the moment.

A £50 million badger culling test supports this. It shows that under the right conditions comprehensive badger culling could reduce the disease. This reduction is said to average around 16% over a nine-year period though the percentage could be higher. This seems to support the culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire that have taken place earlier this year. In the Republic of Ireland areas trialling badger culls found a 51-68% reduction in cattle bovine TB over a period of five years.

It is not just farmers who suffer as a result of the spread of bovine TB. Studies have shown that the effects of TB on British cattle has cost the UK taxpayer over £500 million over the past ten years. In the current economic climate and with the nation still trying to dig its way out of a recession, this is an expense we simply cannot afford. Furthermore, the farm and agriculture industry contributes around £8 billion to the UK economy. For this reason, we need to protect farming assets and put a stop to the spread of TB.