The Badger Trust has condemned the decision by the Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove to approve 11 new badger cull licences in England in 2018, bringing the total in operation to 31.
As a result of this major expansion of badger cull, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last 5 years of the badger cull combined.
Despite a huge increase in the number of badgers to be killed, the Government has yet to provide any reliable evidence that badger culling is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.
With no effective independent monitoring of cull contractors, the Badger Trust is also increasingly concerned that badgers will die long painful deaths due to the continued use of controlled shooting, a culling method which is condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.
The Badger Trust has already raised serious animal welfare concerns with Natural England over the trapping of badgers for up to 12 hours in cages in the heat wave in Gloucestershire and Somerset, under existing supplementary cull licences which have been operation since June.
Responding to the announcement of the new badger cull licences the CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said,
“Despite the Met Office confirming that Britain experienced the most extreme heat wave on record during June, July and August, which has decimated badger populations across Britain, the Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove has today given the green light to the largest destruction of badgers in living memory.
By approving 11 new badger cull licences which now brings the number in England to 31, over 40,000 more badgers could be killed this autumn bringing the total killed since 2013 to over 75,000. This could mean that more badgers are killed in the next few months then the last 5 years combined. The 11 licenses have expanded cull zones in Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset. The cull has also been newly expanded into the areas of Staffordshire and Cumbria.
By 2020 over 150,000 badgers are likely to have been killed as a result of the cull policy, pushing this protected species to verge of extinction in parts of Britain which it has inhabited since the Ice Age. With the public costs of the badger cull now estimated to be well over £50 million and rising fast, the Government has yet to provide any reliable evidence to show the mass destruction of badgers is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in or around the cull zones.
Under the cull policy cage trapping and shooting badgers is currently costing the tax payer over £1,000 per badger. However, badger vaccination teams across Britain are now trapping and vaccinating badgers against TB for less than £200 per badger, less than a fifth of the cost of culling.
If the government really wishes to reduce the spread of TB in badgers, it should bring an immediate halt to the cruel, ineffective and hugely costly badger cull and introduce a publicly funded national badger vaccination programme.
A national badger vaccination programmes combined with improved TB testing for cattle, tighter bio security and cattle movement controls, will far more effectively reduce the spread of Bovine TB in cattle and badgers.
This is a far better outcome for farmers, tax payers and for the future survival of badgers.”