Pilot badger cull finally unveiled
Defra has announced that a long-awaited cull on badgers will go ahead as part of the coalition’s measures to combat bovine TB.
Caroline Spelman announced today (Tuesday) that the government will conduct science-led culls in two pilot areas to confirm whether the proposal is humane and effective. Badger control licences will be granted to farmers and landowners to carry out controlled culls in the worst affected areas, at their own expense.
This effectively enables farmers to carry out ‘free-shooting’ of badgers in the trial areas, considered to be a more humane and cost effective method. If this proves effective, then the policy will be rolled out more widely. However, the ‘free-shooting’ methodology is now subject to a nine-week consultation to establish that this is the best method.
Applications for licences would only be considered for a cull area of at least 150sq km, with reasonable barriers and buffers established at the edge to minimise disturbed badger populations causing an increase of bovine TB in adjacent areas.
Spelman said: “The evidence supports the case for a controlled reduction of the badger population in areas worst affected by bovine TB.”
“Ultimately we want to be able to vaccinate both cattle and badgers, and we’re investing in research – but there are serious practical difficulties with the injectable badger vaccine, which is the only available option.”
The news comes after the Welsh Assembly put its controversial badger cull on hold, pending further investigation by an independent panel of experts.
Nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of the disease last year, which is estimated to cost the country £90m.
The majority of adults across the UK – around 63% – are opposed to killing badgers to tackle the issue of TB in cattle, according to a recent poll carried out by the BBC.