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The Wildlife Trusts react to proposals for badger cull expansion

The Wildlife Trusts, including Leicestershire & Rutland, are deeply concerned that recent Government proposals indicate an intention to increase badger culling by expanding culling into low risk and edge areas, and increasing the number of new cull zones that could be licensed each year.

Further Wildlife Trusts are implicated, with proposals to roll out the cull to new edge areas including our neighbouring Trusts of Derbyshire and Warwickshire as well as Avon, Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, and Staffordshire.

Three separate Government consultations on badger culling came within days of a Government announcement that they intend to review their strategy for achieving ‘Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England’.

The current strategy has resulted in over 34,000 badgers being culled without conclusive evidence that culling is having an impact on decreasing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Culling has been shown to be ineffective, inhumane and expensive compared to alternatives, like badger vaccination, which is a more humane and effective method to stop the spread of bTB.

The members of the review panel are yet to be made public – we sincerely hope that it will include people with the full range of necessary expertise and experience, including experts in bTB, wildlife and badger behaviour.

The Wildlife Trusts have actively opposed the badger cull since 2004. There is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that culling badgers decreases the incidence of bTB in cattle. Long-term trials by the Government showed that culling could actually make the situation worse by encouraging badgers to disperse.

The Wildlife Trusts are mindful that bTB can have a devastating emotional and financial impact on the lives of farmers and want to find solutions that work for everyone.

At the same time as The Wildlife Trusts continue to work with Defra in planning and delivering the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme 2, the Government is consulting on whether to license badger culls in eight additional Edge Area counties. This fundamentally undermines the logic of the vaccination scheme. In the face of global shortages of the vaccine in 2017, three Wildlife Trusts – Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Berks, Bucks & Oxfordshire – pioneered the use of an alternative vaccine.

The bTB Review offers the Government the opportunity to revisit a scientifically flawed policy, which flies in the face of public opinion, is deeply inhumane, thoroughly unscientific and gives farmers a poor deal, too.

The Wildlife Trusts will be responding to the government consultations.

You can read more about The Wildlife Trusts views on bTb and the badger cull, and our badger vaccination work at www.wildlifetrusts.org/badgers

We sincerely hope that these consultations and the bTB Review help us to reach an end to the cull in favour of strategic and widespread badger vaccination schemes, and of investment in developing a cattle vaccine.

 

Photograph: Badger at the Trust's Cossington Meadows Nature Reserve (Tim Matthews).

 

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