HC Deb 20 May 1974 vol 874 cc20-1W
Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether it is his policy to recommend the use of snares and the digging of setts as the most humane methods of destroying badgers.

Miss Fookes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what methods of controlling badgers are recommended by his Department; and in particular whether he approves of snaring for this purpose.

Mr. Buchan

This now depends on the area concerned.

Hitherto the Department has concentrated on the wildlife importance of badgers and the need to protect them— save for the occasional rogue animal which may have been destroying poultry or crops and for which shooting with prescribed firearms and ammunition is normally recommended. Unfortunately the proven incidence of tuberculosis among dense badger populations in certain parts of South-West England, coinciding as it has with an upsurge of TB outbreaks among cattle in the vicinity of the setts concerned, compels us to reappraise our policy in these particular areas. In these essentially local situations considerations of human and animal health, including the health of badgers themselves, have to be set against the importance of giving the badger the special protection which it rightly deserves.

My officials are discussing this problem with the conservation interests; and my right hon. Friend will be consulting the various interests concerned on any proposals that may emerge.

In the meantime I will be sending the hon. Members an advisory leaflet prepared for occupiers in the area concerned. This gives guidance on control techniques generally including the circumstances in which shooting, digging, trapping and snaring may be appropriate, together with the precautions that are essential to preclude both suffering by the badger and any further spread of the disease.