Northern Ireland Badger Group welcomes Minister O’Neill’s ‘measured’ badger strategy

The Northern Ireland Badger Group has welcomed the Agriculture Minister’s announcement in respect of her plans for actions on TB and wildlife.

Badger Group spokesman, Mike Rendle said,

‘The Badger Group has always advocated a co-ordinated, science-led approach to combating bovine TB. Whilst the most reliable evidence supports a strategy designed around cattle-based measures, we believe the Minister’s plan is an appropriate and measured approach to clarifying the role of wildlife in this disease.

‘Killing any badgers will be distasteful to many but the proposed trap-test-vaccinate/remove programme is likely to be the most environmentally benign and scientifically valid option’, he added. ‘The Minister has given assurances that no healthy badgers will be removed.’

Northern Ireland has a commendable record in controlling bovine TB over the last decade. In evidence to the Assembly’s bovine TB review, The Badger Group made the case that Northern Ireland is uniquely placed to tackle this disease through a progressive and innovative eradication strategy.

The Group also believes that indiscriminate badger culling, as currently practised in the Irish Republic, has no credible role as a disease control strategy in Ireland. Decades of snaring, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of badgers, has made no significant impact on cattle infection in the South of Ireland. Worse still, the vast majority of the badgers culled were free of disease.

Mr Rendle cautioned against illegal badger removal.

‘This announcement should not be interpreted as a green light to interfere with badgers. Indiscriminate removal of badgers by any means, and on any scale, is an ill-considered, high risk strategy as well as a criminal offence. These activities will only serve to undermine the considerable investment and good faith required to make this proposal a success’, he warned.