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Dickson Alarmed by Proposals for an Indiscriminate Badger Cull Purporting to Combat Bovine TB

East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has expressed concern at proposals for an indiscriminate badger cull in Northern Ireland. The proposals are contained within a consultation document commissioned by the Department for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs, regarding strategies to eradicate bovine TB.

Mr Dickson said: “Costing up to £40m each year, TB in cattle is an exceptionally serious issue affecting Northern Irish farmers and must be dealt with as a matter of priority. However, these proposals of an indiscriminate badger cull are unjustifiable.

“The majority of badgers across Northern Ireland are completely healthy, currently live alongside cattle without incident, and are therefore of little threat to farmers’ livelihoods. Indeed, the USPCA has found that 80% of badgers pose no threat whatsoever to cattle. Consequently, the old adage, ‘correlation does not imply causation’ comes to mind, and I cannot accept that an indiscriminate cull is at all necessary.”

A widespread badger cull approach has been adopted in England and the Republic of Ireland. However, it has proved to be a very contentious and divisive policy that is widely opposed by sections of the public, academics, environmentalists, animal welfare, and animal rights organisations.

According to published government statistics, despite the cull in England, national herd incidence and the prevalence of bovine TB has increased slightly in the 12 months ending 31 March 2021. Indeed, culling licenses will be banned from 2022. The Republic of Ireland has reported a similar increase in bovine TB since the start of their cull.

In contrast, the approach taken to bovine TB in Wales has been far more successful, using a much more ethical approach. This approach does not involve widespread culling of badgers, but effectively dealing with the primary factors in transmission such as animal movements and biosecurity.

Mr Dickson concluded by saying: “The USPCA has suggested that DAERA instead follow a test-vaccinate-remove approach as used in Wales, which the department’s own published research has deemed to be effective. This is the only proportionate and humane approach, and the only approach in the British Isles that has proven successful.”

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