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Badger culling debate hots up
PROTESTERS packed out a council meeting to see borough councillors debate a possible badger inoculation programme in Cheshire.
But a final decision on how Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) would deal with the threat of bovine TB was delayed after members voted to refer the matter to a scrutiny committee.
Crowds gathered outside the council chambers on The Drumber on Thursday evening, October 17 voicing their opposition to a cull.
Several charities and wildlife groups were present, with banners opposing the pilot cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset – due to be extended after less than half of the required animals were killed in the allotted six-week period.
Clr Nicole Meardon moved a motion to follow Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s (CWT) example and immunise badgers against the virus to create a ‘firewall’ against the spread of the disease.
Speaking for the Respect for Wildlife group, Katherine Green said: “The Cheshire Farmers have a difficult task controlling disease in their herds, but they will only cause conflict and war in the countryside of Cheshire and will never gain the sympathy and hearts of people by attacking the problem with bullets.”
Ms Green added the ‘real culprit’ of Bovine TB’s spread was cattle to cattle transmission because of ‘lax bio security’ during cattle transportation.
CWT has been vaccinating badgers against Bovine TB for a year across 1,000 hectares of Cheshire countryside, running at £1,800 per square kilometre – roughly equating to around £12.50 per head of cattle, said spokesman, Tom Marshall.
He pointed to studies carried out in 2010 that showed vaccinating badgers reduced the incidence of positive blood test results for bTB by over 70 per cent.
Mr Marshall also talked about the issue of perturbation – whereby badgers previously contained in one area migrate to neighbouring land when culls occur.
“The alternative process of badger vaccination not only removes any likelihood of these movements, but simultaneously helps to create immunity in the wildlife reservoir – within exactly the same timescale as a cull,” he said.
Richard Fair, a Cheshire farmer with the NFU, acknowledged that badger culls were an ‘emotive subject’, but said the issue needed greater debate.
“TB does not just affect badgers, it affects all species. Cows we know about, but it affects alpacas, your pet dog, and it infects and kills humans. A human died of Bovine TB early this year,” he said.
Mr Fair called for campaigners, farmers, landowners and councillors to join a Cheshire-wide ‘TB Group’ so all parties could get the ‘full picture on this terrible disease’.
CWAC’s decision to immunise rather than cull would only be applicable on council-owned land.
But alongside CWT land, clr Meardon said the authority had a ‘real opportunity’ to set an example and stem the northern spread of bTB with inoculation.
She and other Labour councillors rejected a proposed amendment to move the matter to scrutiny, after requests from members to delay a final decision pending a fact-finding exercise.
The resulting vote on the amendment split the chamber in half.
Without a clear majority, Chair, Clr Jil Houlbrook, referred the matter to scrutiny.
Following the decision, Mr Marshall said: “The culling of badgers is not a forgone conclusion.”
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