Badger killing not black and white

THOUSANDS of one of our most iconic animals, the wonderful badger, are to be killed in a massive cull.

The controversial government-backed decision is an attempt to stop the badgers allegedly spreading bovine TB to cattle.

As yet the disease is not affecting Suffolk’s cattle farms, and the badger cull will thankfully not happen in this area.

Though rarely seen, our countryside has plenty of the black-and-white striped faced creatures, the largest member of the weasel family.

Some 900 setts have been logged in the county by members of the Suffolk Badger Group.

Six of those are in the Trimley, Kirton and Falkenham area, with a particularly big one, with around 15 openings into its underground warren of tunnels, somewhere near Grimston Hall.

Never having been aware of these setts – some of which are apparently in ditch banks near public footpaths – I am now watching closely in case I should be lucky enough to see their inhabitants scurrying around in the undergrowth or woods.

Most Read

Experts though say you are more likely to see one dead than alive – one in six badgers are killed on the roads while out searching for food.

Now thousands will be killed in a cull – quite ironic that it is being proposed for what is the only animal in the country to have an Act of Parliament to protect it.

Wildlife experts are not convinced killing them is the answer to the problem – many believe it will not work and would like to see a vaccine used instead, though farmers believe this would be impossible to administer successfully and would need to be done ever year.

TB in cattle – the south-west of the country is the area suffering from the problems currently – is heartbreaking for farmers who have to watch some of their best quality animals put down and have huge restrictions imposed on their business.

At the moment, compensation for farmers forced to slaughter infected cattle herds costs the taxpayer �100 million a year.

So far, an initial test cull has failed to show the results expected – with the disease showing little sign of reducing.

In fact, the trial cull is said to have actually spread the disease to previously unaffected areas with badgers escaping the cull moving elsewhere.

Conservationists believe the cull is unethical and illegal and want to see more work done to stop cattle spreading TB among themselves, and for the faster development of a bovine vaccination, and greater use of electrical fences to keep badgers and cows apart.

It is a tricky situation. Without doubt urgent action is needed is protect the cattle, but is such a shame that the badgers will have to suffer.

? Give me your views – write to richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk or Your Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

? Read Richard Cornwell’s full column every week in FX – the eight-page pull-out all about the Felixstowe area in the Evening Star every Wednesday.