UK

'Gas The Badgers Instead Of Shooting Them, Says Princess Anne

04/04/2014 10:49 BST | Updated 04/04/2014 11:59 BST
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Princess Anne arrives for the the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games at the Olympic Stadium in London, Friday, July 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Toby Melville, Pool)

Gassing badgers is a "much nicer way" to control them, the Princess Royal has said.

Anne also spoke of her pro-stance on genetically modified crops, in staunch opposition to that of her brother, the Prince of Wales, who is well known for being anti-GM.

Appearing on the BBC's Countryfile programme, the keen equestrian suggested eating horsemeat is "worth looking at", adding that she has tried eating it and found it tasted "very good".

In a series of wide-ranging interviews on countryside matters, Anne discussed the contentious topic of the recent pilot badger culls, one of which was carried out in Gloucestershire where she lives and farms.

An independent report on the pilots found the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in TB in cattle could not be achieved by "controlled shooting" - the shooting of free-running badgers.

Asked about alternatives to gunning them down, Anne told the programme that most people "will tell you that gas is a much nicer way of doing it, if that's not a silly expression".

She explained: "Because of the way it works. And how it works is that you go to sleep, basically."

Her remarks are likely to anger animal rights groups, who argue that gassing is inhumane. The control method was banned by the Government in 1982.

The princess said: "I don't believe shooting was ever a particularly good way of dealing with it."

But she added that the feared spread of TB to cattle was not the only reason to cull badgers, which she said were getting out of control in some areas, causing problems for other species such as hedgehogs, bees and ground-nesting birds.

She told the programme: "Even if you took the cattle completely out of this debate... from a conservation issue alone, you'd have to say there are too many badgers. A bigger growth in the badger population is not good for the balance of conservation anyway."

The Queen's daughter conceded that "there is no simple answer and some of the answers are difficult and not necessarily comfortable".

"It's a serious business looking after the countryside and it's a much more serious business feeding people," she added.

Anne was also asked about her views on GM crops, which Charles once suggested risked creating "the biggest disaster environmentally of all time".

She said: "I think it has a role to play, to be honest.

"I think the claims are probably slightly greater than most of the deliverables actually are. They do add to our ability to perhaps be more efficient users of the land. That is good, because I think in the long term, when you've got the prospect of nine billion to feed, you are going to need some help in doing that and to do it well."

She admitted she "seldom" discusses the subject with Charles, adding they "probably" hold different views.

But Anne said opponents to GM crops should accept that genetic engineering is inevitable.

She told the programme: "I do think there are some things which, even if you don't like the sound of it yourself, you know that it's got to a point where you're not going to stop it, because you can't.

"So you really must focus on how you can get the best out of it so it works for humans and the globe in the long run."

Her comments have been criticised by animal rights groups.

Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of Humane Society International UK, said: “It is extremely disappointing that a prominent member of the royal family should endorse the gassing of a supposedly protected indigenous wild mammal. Any attempt to reintroduce gassing would doubtless result in a slow and painful death for many badgers, and potentially other non-target animals.

“Moreover, the government’s own figures clearly show that badgers don’t need to be culled to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis. Princess Anne should be better informed before making public statements on such controversial and divisive issues."

PETA Managing Director Ingrid E Newkirk has said that Princess Anne should go on an "empathy course".

"PETA's course teaches the Golden Rule – treat others as you wish to be treated", Newkirk says. "Those who have everything in life should not be calling for the death of horses and badgers, whose only crime is to be born into a world where humans are in charge and other animals are viewed by some as replaceable.

"Given the regular exposés showing how people who raise pigs and chickens for the table treat the animals, it is absurd to think people would take better care of horses if there was a market for their meat."