Friday, 21 December 2018

Record 32,000 badgers shot in annual cull

Scientists accuse officials of cherry-picking data to defend disease-control scheme
Damian Carrington Environment editor
Tue 18 Dec 2018 14.06 GMTLast modified on Tue 18 Dec 2018 16.25 GMT
More than 32,000 badgers were killed in England this autumn during the annual cull, which is intended to reduce tuberculosis in cattle.
Government officials claimed the culls were effective and starting to reduce prevalence of the disease in cows. But independent scientists said the officials were cherry-picking data and making up targets as they went along.
TB in cattle costs taxpayers £100m in compensation each year, with 33,000 infected animals slaughtered in 2017. The environment secretary, Michael Gove, approved a huge expansion of badger culling in September. This resulted in the largest number of animals killed to date.
An independent review of TB control, commissioned by Gove and published in November, concluded that frequent trading of cattle and poor biosecurity on farms was “severely hampering” control efforts. It was wrong to blame badgers as the main cause of the outbreaks, the scientists said, although Gove had told them not to assess whether the current badger culls were working.
Data published on Tuesday shows that in the 30 culls taking place across England, 32,601 badgers were shot this autumn, the highest number on record.
An earlier 10-year trial of badger culling showed it was vital to kill at least 70% of badgers in an area to reduce TB in cattle, but as a protected species badgers must not be wiped out either. Therefore, minimum and maximum cull targets are set.


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