Press comment: Bovine TB

09 April 2013

In response to a press comment from Care for the Wild, calling on the Soil Association to stop certifying products from farms taking part in the badger cull

Helen Browning Soil Association Chief Executive said;

"Bovine TB is an animal welfare crisis – the latest government figures show that over 3,000 cows are culled every month. It causes suffering to cattle, has already caused more cattle deaths than foot and mouth disease and causes trauma for the farmers involved. The Soil Association's position on TB and cattle is, first, that the top priority must be to develop vaccines that will protect cattle and wildlife from this disease. We also believe more attention must be paid to increasing the positive health of cattle, through more humane management, so they are better able to resist TB and other diseases.

"Bovine TB and the badger cull issue are part of a wider moral debate that needs to take place around the role of people in managing wildlife. We need to give serious consideration to how we interact with nature and how we make decisions that affect one species or another, whether intentionally or not. We need to ensure as a society that we care for the welfare of all animals – domestic, farmed and in the wild.

"It would not make sense for consumers to stop buying organic if they disagree with badger culling when independent reviews have shown that no other system of farming has higher animal welfare standards and government studies have shown that organic farms have up to 50% more wildlife. Because organic farmers avoid pesticide use we protect insects, birds and other wildlife.

"The science surrounding the issue of badger culling is still contested. Farmers licensed by the Soil Association, the experts we work with and our supporters all have different views. As far as farmers licensed by the Soil Association are concerned, our standards cover all aspects of production, but not other things that happen on farms such as public access or controlling populations of animals like rats, rabbits, foxes or deer. We will not be making changes to our certification standards and decisions on whether to allow badgers to be culled on their land is something individual organic farmers will need to decide."

Latest Defra statistics show that the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as Btb reactors or direct contacts was 37,753 during January to December 2012, averaging 3,146 per month

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