Brian May welcomes ‘brave’ decision to phase out badger cull

The musician said he had campaigned against the controversial policy for a decade.
The musician said he had campaigned against the controversial policy for a decade.

Brian May has welcomed the Government’s “brave new policy decision” to phase out intensive badger culling aimed at tackling TB in livestock.

The Queen guitarist, who is co-founder of the Save Me Trust animal welfare organisation, said the move will reduce “suffering in badgers, in cows, and the lives of dairy farmers nationwide”.

The decision spells the beginning of the end of the controversial policy, which has been rolled out to 40 areas of England.

Proposed badger cull
Brian May at a protest against the badger cull (Ben Birchall/PA)

Farmers have said it is necessary to control the disease which devastates the beef and dairy industries, although there has been opposition from wildlife and animal welfare groups.

In a joint statement with the Save Me Trust’s chief executive, Anne Brummer, May said: “We welcome this brave new policy decision, and believe that it will lead to the alleviation of suffering in badgers, in cows, and the lives of dairy farmers nationwide.

“We remain committed to solving the complex problems of TB management, by our participation in the rolling out of the Gatcombe strategy to volunteer dairy farms in the months to come.”

May, 72, has been a vocal critic of the cull and has said he will not play at Glastonbury Festival because its organiser, Michael Eavis, who is also a dairy farmer, supports the policy.

He added: “We have been campaigning for 10 years against the cull, along with various animal action groups, and with great support from the public.

The Prince of Wales visits the Tower of London
Michael Gove commissioned the Charles Godfray Report on tackling bovine TB (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

“This dramatic change in Government policy is a direct consequence of the Government’s long-awaited response to the Charles Godfray Report, commissioned by Michael Gove, at Save Me’s specific request, early last year.

“Charles Godfray and his team, over a period of six months, made the first comprehensive appraisal of techniques used in trying to contain the spread of bovine TB in cattle since culling began, along with trying to discover why they were failing.”

During his investigations, zoologist Sir Charles Godfray visited the Save Me Trust’s Gatcombe Farm in Devon, which achieved TB-free status in three years without employing a cull.

May also thanked current Environment Secretary George Eustice and former environment secretary Mr Gove, describing the latter as “the first environment minister in recent times ever to listen to the arguments against culling”.

He added: “Some attention has been given in the press reports to the substitution of vaccination of badgers for culling, but we believe that, in the coming months, the emphasis will be switched to cutting off channels of infection within the herd, rather than depending (on) bearing down on the so-called wildlife reservoir.

“Recent findings, especially our own from our Gatcombe Farm project, have indicated that the true reservoir of re-infection is not in wildlife, but in the undetected TB-infected cattle left in the national herd.”