Monday, 16 September 2019

Badger cull in England extended to ‘unimaginable scale’

Ministers approve culling in 11 new areas, with 64,000 animals likely to be killed this autumn

Damian Carrington Environment editor

Wed 11 Sep 2019 16.44 BSTLast modified on Wed 11 Sep 2019 20.35 BST

The controversial badger cull in England has been expanded to an “unimaginable scale”, according to a leading expert who warned the government is paying far too little attention to the transmission of tuberculosis between cattle when they are traded.

Ministers approved culling in 11 new areas on Wednesday, taking the total to 43. Up to 64,000 animals are likely to be killed this autumn, up from a maximum of 42,000 last year.

TB infections in cattle blight farms and cost taxpayers more than £100m a year in compensation payments. But scientists and conservationists oppose the cull, saying there is little evidence it is effective and is being badly run.

The cull started in 2013 in Gloucester and Somerset and takes place in 43 areas, from Cornwall to Cumbria. A proposed cull in Derbyshire, where a badger vaccination programme has been taking place, was not approved.

“Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK,” the farming minister, George Eustice, said. He added that there was no single measure to beat the disease, with tighter cattle movement controls, improved biosecurity on farms and badger vaccination all required.

A large-scale trial of badger culling that ended in 2006 indicated that a minimum of 70% of a badger population must be killed for a cull to be effective. If fewer are culled, disruption of badger social groups can lead to TB being spread more widely.

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