Despite losing more than half their valuable organic herd of beef cattle, a Devon farming partnership is against the badger cull.
Robert James and Kate Palmer think the pilot culls in West Somerset and around Tewkesbury are a waste of time, money and effort.
Robert James and Kate Palmer, who farm more than 100 acres of organic land at Witheridge, in North Devon, say badger culling is not the answer
"If you cull badgers in one place, within months other badgers will come back in. Then what will happen? It will not stop TB," said Robert James, who farms more than 100 acres of organic land at Witheridge, in North Devon.
He and his partner, Kate Palmer, have seen their valuable herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle decimated by bovine TB – and they are well aware of the part badgers can play in spreading disease, which caused the deaths of 26,000 cattle nationally last year.
The partnership at West Yeo Farm had 30 cows, plus their calves earlier this year, but the herd is now reduced to just 20, after cattle failed TB tests.
Highly distressing was the fact that several were found not to have TB at post mortem – but most tragic of all was the loss of the award-winning stock bull.
Mr James explained: "We have lost half our herd of pedigree Devon cattle to TB this year. Our bloodlines go back 70 years and cannot be replaced."
Eighty-five per cent of Ruby Red bloodlines were now crossed with Saler cattle and he has been unable to replace the lost animals with purebred Devons, he said.
Now the partners are petitioning the Government to get on with the development of an effective TB vaccine for cattle without delay – and pay realistic compensation for the loss of organic cattle, instead of a flat rate.
Mr James added: "We have lost over £15,000, as the Government does not pay organic market prices in compensation. We had four cows killed that did not have TB."
But the loss of the stock bull was worse. Mr James explained: "At £14,000 he was the highest-priced Devon bull at auction in the UK. I cried when I had to load him. Kate could not be there because she was so upset. We were so proud when we bought him in spring 2008 at the Ruby Red Devon Society sale at Sedgemoor Market and he was champion on the day, bred by the Dart family at Molland on Exmoor. We have sold semen from him all over the world. Now he is just 660 kilos of dead meat hanging on a hook."
But still he opposes the cull. "I feel very passionately about this. I have a friend who farms on Exmoor whose herd has gone down with TB, without a badger on the farm and with no new stock bought in. The answer was TB in the wild red deer population."
He added: "The Government has to get on with a vaccine that works."
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