Badger Trust calls for cull justification as new badger population figures are released

The Badger Trust has called on Natural England to justify how new figures on the badger population would not impair the effectiveness of the Coalition’s culling policy.

The campaign group has claimed that new figures from Natural England show the badger populations in the proposed culling areas (Gloucestershire and Somerset) to be lower than thought last year, when the culls were postponed. Chairman of the Trust David Williams said in a statement: “It is a disgrace that new data has been turned up so long after the policy had been decided. It should have been right in the first place. This muddle is scientifically inexcusable, as well as politically humiliating for the Coalition.”

Williams added that, now the estimations had been reduced, it would make it easier to reach the cull target. He added: “The cull was postponed last year because the Coalition claimed the surveys had produced surprisingly high estimates of badger numbers. Now that has all changed.”

A spokeswoman from Natural England told MeatInfo.co.uk that it had received a letter from the Badger Trust’s lawyers and would respond accordingly. She explained there had been a “further population survey, which changed the figures taken from last year, when the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) asked for the cull to be postponed”.

She added: “The new badger population estimates are based on a wide range of robust evidence, including genetic data from hair trapping and information from sett surveys. The method used has been peer-reviewed and assessed by an independent auditor to ensure we have the best estimates possible.”

BTB

Meanwhile, farmers in Great Britain are struggling with bTB, said to be spread by the badgers, which is why the cull is being carried out. Defra figures showed that 3,215 cows were slaughtered in January 2013, as a result of bTB, which is a 24% rise on last year and brings the total number of cattle culled to 186,664 since January 2008.

Since 2011 more than 38,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Great Britain because of bTB, while 28,000 have been slaughtered in England alone. Defra figures showed there had been a 10% increase in cattle lost to bTB between 2011 and 2012.

NFU vice-president Adam Quinney explained that 2012 saw the highest cull figures in England, showing that more farmers were battling against the disease on their farms.

“I am a cattle farmer and I know these numbers have increased despite additional cattle controls, more pre-movement testing and stricter on-farm biosecurity measures, which were introduced in July last year,” he said. “New tough on-farm rules were also introduced in January 2013 as part of the government’s TB eradication plan, which aims to tackle all aspects of TB infection in the countryside.”

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