FARMING union representatives will attend Cheshire East Council’s cabinet meeting today (January 14) to persuade them to allow culling on farmland owned by the local authority.

CEC’s cabinet is due to endorse good biosecurity measures and badger vaccinations as two important ways of curbing Bovine TB at today's meeting.

At the same time, it is due to sign off plans to change future farm tenancy agreements to prevent culling taking place without consent from the council.

But NFU Cheshire is urging CEC to give tenant farmers the freedom to decide how to tackle TB, and it is asking the council to consult with farmers on the best way forwards.

Richard Blackburn, NFU Cheshire county chairman, said: “It is vital that farmers have the freedom to choose the best course of action for their own business from all of the tools available in order to remain competitive and continue to produce food to the high standard that we are used to.

“It is worrying that the council could take this choice away from our members and its own tenants by restricting them to badger vaccination only.”

The Government has issued licences to cull badgers on land in Cheshire since 2017 in an attempt to curb Bovine TB – and 1,208 badgers were killed in the first two years of the cull.

In Cheshire, 2,389 animals infected by Bovine TB were slaughtered in the 12 months up to October 2018, an increase of 252 over the 2,137 slaughtered in the 12 months up to October 2017 – with the latest figures due out on Wednesday.

CEC has permitted badger vaccinations on its land under the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme – but Mr Blackburn insists its success in reducing Bovine TB is ‘unproven’, while the union claims that many farmers already protect their herds through good biosecurity measures.

Mr Blackburn added: “The culling of badgers in line with closely monitored and rigorous licensing has demonstrated a significant reduction in TB levels.

“Research shows a single breakdown can cost the farmer as much as £150,000, so this reduction in new breakdowns is extremely positive news.

“To try and compare the two methods in terms of its effect on disease in cattle is impossible as the impact of vaccination is unproven and there is currently no evidence to suggest that it will have any effect on cattle, particularly in areas where TB is rife.

“Given the evidence we firmly believe it should be that the farmer is able to decide which method, if any, they wish to implement within their business.”

A report issued by CEC officers ahead of today’s meeting admits that culling ‘forms part of a holistic approach’ to tackling Bovine TB according to veterinary evidence – but suggests that vaccination and good biosecurity measures should also be adopted across the borough.

It says: “The council’s view is that vaccination is an important part of any long-term approach to reducing the general prevalence of the disease, risk to cattle or wildlife and its impact in Cheshire East.

“It is recognised that vaccinating badgers is not the complete answer to eradicating this disease in cattle but is complementary when taken alongside other measures.

“Due to the complex nature of Bovine TB, its biology and epidemiology, it is expected that the effect of interventions would be seen several years after their introduction. It is also difficult to assign success to any single intervention.

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“As a result, it is most likely that success will be achieved by the combined impact of a wide range of measures, which are part of a national system as opposed to any one particular intervention in one geographic area.”

Jane Smith, coordinator for Wounded Badger Patrol and Alsager town councillor, is also expected to attend the meeting to encourage CEC to do more to prevent badgers being culled in the borough.