Green light given for new badger culls

Natural England has given the go-ahead for the second of four years of badger culling in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset to attempt to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

Despite protests from wildlife groups such as the Badger Trust, which have called the culls an “utter shambles”, Natural England said that operations in these areas where TB is rife will be carried out under the existing four-year licences. These allow six weeks of culling to take place every year between 1 June and 31 January. The executive non-departmental public body confirmed that all the criteria had been met to allow the culling to continue.

It added that licensees have been set a minimum number of badgers to be removed – these are 615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset. A maximum number of badgers has also been set – 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset – to safeguard the local populations. According to the body, these have been based on the estimates of the badger populations in 2013 set out in the Independent Expert Panel’s report, and on new evidence.

Natural England said it “has worked closely together with Defra and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to develop a robust monitoring regime for this year’s culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

However Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor to Care for the Wild, said: “As we speak, the High Court is still contemplating our legal challenge against the cull, so I think Natural England has jumped the gun a bit. At the same time, there is now a criminal investigation taking place by the police on contractors who stalked badgers with loaded weapons on a golf course and close to residential housing. So why the government feels it is okay to re-start the culls while these issues are unanswered is beyond me.

“Confidence in the ability of badger culling to actually solve the problem of bTB was already low, but recently it has also collapsed in terms of humaneness and public safety. It’s an utter shambles, but it’s starting again.”

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