'Cull will spare just five herds' Labour warns
Controversial Government plans to tackle TB in cattle by culling badgers will reduce herd breakdowns by just 2.5 per cent but cost farmers "hundreds of thousands of pounds", Labour has claimed.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said official figures showed just five herd breakdowns a year would be prevented in each cull area.
The Government plans to allow farmers and landowners to cull badgers at their own expense in a bid to tackle the disease in herds, which led to the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in England last year.
Further consultations will be held before a widespread cull is brought in, but the Government plans to pilot culling in two areas, one of which is expected to be in the Westcountry, to test "controlled shooting" of free-running badgers.
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Ms Creagh said: "You said the science showed your badger cull would lead to five fewer herd breakdowns per year in each cull area. Last year there were over 2,025 confirmed herd breakdowns in England.
"So even with 10 cull areas after 2013, the cull would prevent just 50 herd breakdowns a year, a reduction of just 2.5 per cent in actual herd breakdowns."
But Jim Paice, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told her: "The farming community is anxious to do something after the 13 years of neglect of you party.
"The fact is this is one part of a large package of measures, the rest of which the Government is doing."
Meanwhile, conservationists' claims that vaccinating badgers is an "affordable alternative" to a cull have been dismissed by leading vets.
The British Veterinary Association said conclusions drawn from a pilot vaccination carried out by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust were "unrealistic at best and spin at worst."