National Trust should back badger culls, say farmers after estate forced to kill herd of deer

Olivia Rudgard
·2 min read
Deer in Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire - Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo 
Deer in Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire - Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

The National Trust should back a badger cull, farmers have said after an estate was forced to get rid of an entire herd of deer.

A herd of 70 was put down at Gloucestershire's Dyrham Park after staff lost a more than ten-year battle to contain a bovine tuberculosis outbreak.

National Trust General Manager, Tom Boden said staff were "devastated".

“Unfortunately, we continued to detect very high levels of bovine tuberculosis in the animals despite our best efforts to control the disease.

“We have been working with expert advisors and vets since the disease was first detected in 2007 but sadly infection rates reached a level that was severely impacting the health and welfare of our animals," he said.

The National Trust has eschewed culling on its land, opting instead for a vaccination policy.

Farmers said the situation should prompt it to change its mind.

Jilly Greed, who farms next to National Trust’s Killerton Estate in Devon, told Farmers Weekly magazine: "Having sat on the fence for many years, at last the trust is facing up to the reality of their no cull policy and now following the science and epidemiology.

“For National Trust tenants and livestock farmers with adjoining land, this has to be a positive in terms of tackling endemic disease in badgers on their estates.”

The National Trust said it had decided to focus on badger vaccination and "biosecurity" programmes as well as "practical support and advice" for farm tenants.

A spokeswoman said: "Our own approach to controlling this disease is guided by the requirement for any wildlife management and lethal control interventions to be humane, evidence led and safeguard local wildlife populations.

"Given the scale of the cull in England, the uncertain disease outcomes, and concerns over humaneness, we took the decision not to allow Government licensed culling on any of our land.

"We recognise that Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a serious issue that has a devastating impact on livestock farmers. It can lead to serious emotional and financial impacts as well as causing suffering and death to huge numbers of cattle and badgers.

"We also recognise that badgers have a role in transmitting this disease and acknowledge the current, but limited, scientific evidence that badger culling may help address TB in cattle. However, the culling of badgers is not taking place on National Trust land."